Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 7   No. 16

Parshas Beshalach


There are certain things that a person who is escaping from prison does not do. It is obvious, for example, that the last thing he should do is attract attention, and to convey the impression that he is trying to get away.

At first sight, it would appear that when Yisroel fled from Egypt, they broke all the rules of escapism. They 'borrowed' the Egyptians' silver and golden vessels and clothes and then did not return them, thereby providing the Egyptians with the perfect excuse to pursue them, to try and retrieve their lost wealth.

They turned back towards the Yam-Suf, conveying the impression that they were lost, and leading the Egyptians to believe that they could be easily caught, seeing as they were not in control of the situation.

And they encamped right in front of Ba'al Tz'fon, the one remaining Egyptian idol, encouraging the Egyptians to come and finish the job that Ba'al Tz'fon had begun by trapping Yisroel in front of the Yam-Suf.


The answer of course, is that Yisroel may well have behaved as if they were running away, but in fact, they were doing nothing of the sort! They were fleeing perhaps, from the tum'ah of Egypt, but not from the Egyptians, and any impression that the Egyptians may have gathered to the effect that they were, was nothing more than an illusion.

As a matter of fact, not only were all of the above not mistakes, they were even deliberate acts of provocation, performed to lure the Egyptians after what they thought was a fleeing Yisroel. It was part of G-d's strategy to trick Par'oh into believing that he could, and that he would, catch Yisroel and bring them back to Egypt (see last week's main article). And it demonstrates G-d's greatness, that He is able to create illusions at will, irrespective of the number of people involved and that He is able to manipulate nations, and to play cat and mouse with them, placing one nation in the path of another, without putting them at the slightest risk.


The Torah writes "and the B'nei Yisroel left Egypt with a high hand" (in full control of the situation) - a state of affairs that remained in effect right up to the drowning of the Egyptians, and if the Egyptians read into the events that Yisroel's downfall was imminent, it was because that was what G-d wanted them to do. In fact, the events heralded their own downfall, not Yisroel's.


As a matter of fact, at no stage during the seven days from the Exodus until the drowning of the Egyptians, did Klal Yisroel actually run away. At all times, they marched in orderly fashion and obeyed instructions, calmly and obediently. When they left Egypt, they left with a high hand (as we have already explained); when they discovered that they were trapped (notwithstanding the four groups who momentarily reacted independently, though in different ways), they calmly followed Moshe's instructions, crossing over the sea-bed in formation, with food and drink provided, and their security needs looked after.


In short, there was the strange scenario of the Egyptians chasing Yisroel, who were not running away, even though the Egyptians thought that they were.

The illusion (that it was Yisroel who was doomed) remained with the Egyptians even as they entered the dry sea-bed, oblivious to the series of miracles that was being performed before their very eyes, even to that of the Pillars of Cloud and Fire, which prevented them from approaching Yisroel, and even hurled back the arrows that they shot at them.


It was at dawn, as the two Pillars turned the dry sea-bed into boiling mud, wreaking havoc with their horses and chariots, that the truth must have begun to dawn on the Egyptians that it was not Yisroel who were doomed, but they themselves. And that truth became a terrifying reality as the piled-up water came crashing down on them. By then, they knew without the slightest shadow of doubt, who was the pursuer and who was the pursued, but by then it was too late to do anything about it.


Parshah Pearls


The Moment of Anger

"And the B'nei Yisroel came in the middle of the Sea on dry land, and the water was for them a wall ... " (14:22).

In this posuk, the word "chomoh" (a wall) is spelt with a 'vov', whereas later, in posuk 29, it is spelt without one. This can be explained with a Medrash (Sh'mos Rabah), which, based on the posuk in Zecharyah "And the rival passed through the Sea", informs us that the image of Michah crossed the Reed Sea together with Yisroel (not that the actual image existed already then, since Michah only made it much later, in the time of the Shoftim, explains the Gro - but that the tribe of Don, of whom Michoh was a member, already harboured thoughts of serving such an idol, and in the realm of idolatry, Hashem combines the thought with the deed, and punishes already for the thought).


It is well-known that the tribe of Don travelled at the back of the Camp of Yisroel (traditionally from Ya'akov, even though the official order of travelling was not organised until they left Har Sinai, more than a year later). That being the case, when Yisroel first entered the sea-bed (and they were in the middle of the sea, whilst Don, who had yet to enter it, were still on dry land), the water was a full wall (a chomah with a 'vov'). There was no reason to get angry, because Don, the cause of the sea's anger, had not yet entered it.

Later, when the rest of Yisroel had already left the sea, they were on dry land, and Don were still walking on the sea-bed together with the (planned) image of Michah, that was when the wall of water became angry and wanted to drown them (see also Ba'al ha'Turim 14:29) - (P'ninim mi'Shulcahn ha'Gro).


Making Good

"Then (oz) Moshe sang ... " (15:1).

'I shall praise Hashem' said Moshe, 'using the same expression that I used when I sinned (by grumbling to Hashem - end of Parshas Sh'mos) and said "u'me'oz bo'si el Par'oh ... " '. (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Hashem Will Reign Forever

"Hashem yimloch le'olom vo'ed " (15:18).

Dovid ha'Melech too, used this expression in Tehilim, only he inverted the order ("Yimloch Hashem le'olom ... " ( 146:10). The Ba'al ha'Turim explains that this is because the words that immediately precede this phrase are "and He twists the way of the resho'im", and Dovid ha'Melech did not want to juxtapose the Name of Hashem next to the word "resho'im".


I once heard that it is for the same reason that the Torah changes from "Mi chomochoh bo'eilim Hashem" to "Mi komochoh" (with a dogesh in the chof) - in order to avoid placing His holy Name next to that of Michoh, the rosho whose image crossed the Yam Suf with them.


Illnesses, Bread and Salt

"All the 'illnesses' (ha'machloh) that I placed on the Egyptians I will not place on you" (15:26). The word 'machloh', the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, contains the same letters as 'ha'lechem' and 'ha'melach' ('bread' and 'salt'). The numerical value of the word is 83, and this posuk was said at Moroh (which can also mean 'gall').

All this hints at what Chazal have said: 'There are 83 illnesses connected with the gall, and all of them can be dispelled with bread and salt in the morning, together with a jar of water - which in the following posuk refers to springs of water. )Ba'al ha'Turim).


G-d's Anger

"You send Your anger, it consumes them like stubble" (16:7).

When a human-being gets angry, he huffs and he puffs, but nothing happens until he acts. It is only when he strikes that the object of his anger feels its brunt.

Not so with G-d - His anger is synonymous with action - "You send Your anger, it consumes them like stubble" - (Gro)


The Melochoh of Carrying

"Everyone remain in his place: no-one leave his place on the seventh day" (16:29). Maseches Shabbos opens with the laws of carrying. The first Tosfos in the Masechta asks why, and gives an answer.

The Gro has a different approach. It is well-known, he says, that the oral Torah is based on the written one, and the only melochoh, out of all the thirty-nine melochos forbidden on Shabbos, that the Torah mentions specifically, is that of carrying. The Torah writes "no-one leave his place", and Chazal explain this to mean that no-one should carry from one's place, as if it was written "al yotzi ish ... " instead of "al yeitzei ish ... ". It is not the way of the Tana, the Gro concludes, to begin the Masechta with a topic that is not specifically mentioned in the Torah, and that explains why Shabbos begins with the melochoh of carrying, rather than with one of the other melochos, none of which is specifically mentioned in the Torah.


How about the melochoh of hav'oroh (lighting a fire), which the Torah mentions too, asks the Gro?

No problem, he answers, since not everyone agrees that lighting a fire is a proper melochoh - according to Rebbi Yossi, the Torah singles it out to teach us that it is only an ordinary la'av and does not carry with it the sentence of koreis like all the other melochos do (and Rebbi wanted to open the masechta with a melachah that is considered a proper melochoh, even according to Rebbi Yossi) - P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro.


The Four Redeemers

"And place it in the ears of Yehoshua, that I will surely blot out the memory of Amolek" (18:7).

By way of hint, says the Gro, all the redemptions are hinted in the word "I shall blot out" ("emcheh"), consisting of the letters aleph, mem, ches and hey, which comprise the first letters of the four redeemers prevalent in each of the three redemptions from exile:

The ge'ulah from Egypt - Aharon, Moshe, Chur (son of Miriam), Hashem;

The ge'ulah from Bovel (Persia) - Esther, Mordechai, Charvonoh, Hashem;

The ge'ulah from Edom - Eliyohu, Moshi'ach, Ches nesichim (the eight princes - see Sukoh 52b) and Hashem.


History of the World

(Part 58)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Antiochus Epiphanes the Rosho, King of Greece, is the eighth king of Syria. He reigns for eleven years. In the sixth year of his reign he attacks Yerusholayim. He destroys the Beis ha'Mikdosh and places an image in the Sanctuary. He nullifies Shabbos, Yom-tov, and Miloh and murders Chanah and her seven sons, as well as Elozor the Kohen Godol, who is ninety years old.

In the space of three days, he kills 80,000 Jews. He sells 80,000 and sends another 80,000 into captivity. In his days, a strange star appears in the constellation of T'leh (Aries) for eighteen consecutive months. And in the sky, are seen figures riding on fire, wearing golden suits of armour and brandishing spears - and other wondrous sights as described in the Book of the Maccabis.


The Seifer ha'Yuchsin writes that in the days of Chonyo ha'Godol, Antiochus the Great (the seventh) came against Yerusolayim. He despised G-d, ransacked Yerusholayim, and killed sixty thousand Jews, exiling ten thousand more to Antuchyoh.

Forty years later, Pilon the Jew lived. Two years after that, in the course of a personal feud between two Kohanim, one of them, after converting, arranged with Antiochus to force the Jews to do likewise. He complied by sending one of his officers to Yerusholayim. But when the officer entered the Beis ha'Mikdosh, he met there a man who struck him on the face. He fell to the ground almost dead, and they dragged him from the Kodesh. The Kohen Godol prayed to Hashem that he would not die in the Kodesh, and Hashem heard his prayer. The captain got up and returned to his country, deeply humiliated.

He reported to his master (Antiochus) advising him to leave Yerusholayim and G-d's Beis ha'Mikdosh well alone. But it would not be long before Antiochus sent his great generals, Nikanor, Bagris Lucius and Apolianus to attack Yerusholayim. All of these were killed by Matisyohu the Kohen Godol and his sons, who then made peace with the Romans.



There is a full eclipse and a star appears in the sky as large as the sun. It remains there for thirty-two days. The astrologers predict that many calamities will occur, and indeed they do, not only in Eretz Yisroel, but also in other countries - Carthage is burnt and razed to the ground, and all the fortified cities in Greece are captured.



Yehudah ben Tabai and Shimon ben Shetach receive the Torah from Yehoshua ben P'rachyoh and Nitai ha'Arbeili. They will live a long time (until 3722).

Sheltzion the Queen (alias Sh'lomis, the sister of Shimon ben Shetach, who is also the wife of the wicked King Yanai) lives at this time.

Choni ha'Me'agel lives then, too. According to Josephus, he will be killed later outside Yerusholayim, during the civil war between the two kings of the Chashmono'im, Hurkenus and Aristobulus.

Mattisyohu ben Yochonon the Kohen Godol rebels against Antiochus. He has five mighty sons: Yehudah, Yonoson, Yochonon, Shimon and Elozor. Each of them will reign over Yisroel, with the exception of Elozor.


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