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

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Vol. 8   No. 16

This issue is sponsored l'iluy zecher Nishmas
Yonah ben Elchonon Moshe z"l.
May he be a meilitz yosher for his family and for all of K'lal Yisroel.

Parshas Beshalach

Earning Their Colours

When Moshe stood in prayer before Hashem, whilst Yisroel stood with the Reed Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them, Hashem told him to stop praying "Tell the B'nei Yisroel to travel" (14:15).

Rashi explains that now was not the time for lengthy prayers, since Yisroel was in trouble. How strange! If a Jew is not supposed to Daven when he is in trouble, then when is he supposed to daven? Did Dovid ha'Melech not write in Tehilim "From my troubles I called Hashem"?

Following this, Rashi goes on to say that they are to travel, because the sea will not stand up to them. Their merits together with the merits of their fathers, coupled with the faith that they displayed when they followed Moshe into the desert, were sufficient reason for the Sea to split. And the Sifsei Chachamim explains that in view of such great merits, Moshe's prayers were superfluous. But this only seems to clash with the previous statement, which clearly considers Moshe's prayers unwarranted because Yisroel were in trouble, and not because they were superfluous.

Perhaps the second Rashi follows his alternative explanation (of "Tell the B'nei Yisroel to travel"), where he writes "Why do you cry out to Me!" 'It is up to Me, not up to you (and My plan of action is already decided. Yisroel must travel. No prayers are necessary)'. But Rashi's initial explanation begs clarification.


The Or ha'Chayim poses this question, adding that, in any event, it appears that Moshe's prayers were in fact, answered, inasmuch as Hashem then commanded him to raise his staff and split the Sea. In addition, he asks, G-d's two commands to Moshe: to tell Yisroel to travel and then to raise his stick and split the Sea, should have been inverted (for surely that was the correct order of events - the splitting of the Sea followed by Yisroel marching forward, not vice versa)?


To answer these questions, the Or ha'Chayim cites a Medrash Rabah. The Medrash explains that Yisroel at that time were standing accused by the Midas ha'Din, who argued that Yisroel were guilty of idolatry no less than the Egyptians, and that saving Yisroel and drowning the Egyptians therefore, was unjustifiable. Now it is well known, argues the Or ha'Chayim, that the Midas ho'Rachamim required to offset the Midas ha'Din can be activated by good deeds, and by good deeds only. Consequently, in spite of Hashem's desire to save Yisroel, no amount of prayer (or even merits) would have sufficed to counter the powerful accusations of the Midas ha'Din. The only thing that could save them was good deeds. So Hashem ordered Moshe to stop praying, and instead, to instruct Yisroel to travel - into the Sea before it split, in an unprecendented act of faith, based on self-sacrifice (the most powerful antidote against the Midas ha'Din).


The Or ha'Chayim goes one step further. He bases the Midas ha'Din's accusation on Yisroel's complaint "because we would be better off serving the Egyptians than dying in the desert" (perhaps it is this statement which negated their having relinquished idolatry before Makas Bechoros, giving credence to the Midas ha'Din's accusation). Their supreme act of faith was the ideal antidote to their previous display of weakness.

One might add that, in addition, the ultimate act of faith - jumping into the Sea - was the most powerful antidote to the Midas ha'Din's accusation that Yisroel was guilty of avodah zoroh no less than the Egyptians. But their actions here demonstrated just how different than the Egyptians they had now become, by virtue of their having embraced the faith of the true G-d. It was only then, after Yisroel began to travel into the Sea, that Hashem ordered Moshe to raise his staff and split it, to perform the miracle of which Yisroel had now become worthy.

And that is also what Rabeinu Bachye means when he explains "Why do you cry out to Me" - 'It does not depend on Me, but on them'. When they display the necessary faith and travel into the Sea, it will split!


And we have a precedent for this in the previous Parshah, where Rashi (12:6) explains that Hashem gave Yisroel the two mitzvos of Pesach and Miloh, in order to render them worthy of redemption. But Yisroel had many merits to their credit (Hashem's promise to the Ovos, Yisroel's retaining their names and language in Egypt, to mention but two), so why were the mitzvos necessary?

There too, Hashem was about to perform the plague of Makas Bechoros, where He was going to kill the Egyptian first-born and spare those of Yisroel. And there seems to be no reason why the Midas ha'Din would not have presented the same argument against Yisroel as he presented at the Yam-Suf. Consequently, Hashem (kevayochol) had no alternative but to give Yisroel mitzvos to evoke the Midas ho'Rachamim. And there too, he gave them two mitzvos that were rooted in self-sacrifice - 'the blood of Pesach' and 'the blood of Milah'.


Parshah Pearls

A Time to Cry Out

"Va'yomer Hashem el Moshe, Mah titz'ak eilai?" (' why do you cry out to Me?') 14:15.

The Ba'al ha'Turim observes that the 'mem' and the 'hey' that comprise the word "Mah", hint at Moshe's longest prayer (the forty days that he prayed on Har Sinai after the sin of the Golden Calf), and his shortest one (the five words that he prayed when his sister Miriam was stricken with tzora'as).

The Torah's message is clear: there is a time to pray long, and a time to pray short. But there is also a time when prayer is not appropriate at all. And the present moment belonged to that latter category, because the call of the moment was action (see main article).


Put that Stick Away!

"And as for you, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it" (14:16). The simple explanation is that Moshe was to stretch out his hand together with the staff, which was to serve as the medium with which this miracle, like most miracles that were performed through Moshe, was performed. And this is how most commentaries explain it.

Not so Rabeinu Bachye! According to him "horeim es matcha" means, not 'Raise your staff', but 'Remove it'. Otherwise, the Torah should have continued "And Moshe stretched out his staff", rather than "And Moshe stretched out his hand" (which is what the Torah does write).

Until now, everything that Moshe had done, he did with the staff; he struck the Nile and brought on all the plagues with it. So this time, to stop the people from arriving at the conclusion that, without the staff, Moshe was incapable of achieving miracles, Hashem instructed him to put the staff away, and to split the Sea without it. (See also, the K'li Yokor).


The Great Trial

"In order that I test you, whether you will go in My Torah or not" (16:4). Rashi comments 'If they will observe the mitzvos connected with the mon; not to leave over from it and not to go out on Shabbos to collect it.'

The K'li Yokor explains that both of these issues concern bitochon. On the one hand, if they have enough for today, they are not worried about what they will eat tomorrow; and on the other, they trust that what they collected yesterday will suffice for today and they will not run short.

It is only those who display such a measure of bitochon who will go in the path of Torah. People who lack this faith are so tied up in the pursuit of amassing a fortune, to ensure that they have sufficient for today, and for the tomorrow that never comes, that they cannot find the time to set aside for Torah-study.


Alternatively, the K'li Yokor explains the posuk like this. There are two kinds of hindrances that stand in the way of a person involving himself fully with Torah-study, the one is internal, the other, external. The internal hindrance is food, which, due to its physical character, blocks the mind, and prevents it from absorbing Torah, which is totally spiritual. That is why, after the Cloud purified him from the food that he had previously eaten, Moshe refrained from eating for the first forty days that he was on Har Sinai, enabling him to learn the entire Torah during that short period. The external hindrance is one's constant quest to make a livelihood, which does not allow a person to relinquish his mundane thoughts and to immerse himself in the Sea of Torah.

That is why Hashem fed the generation that received the Torah mon. Here was a food that was purely spiritual (the same food that sustains the angels) and would not interfere with the Torah that they would learn. And at the same time, here was a food that came to them effortlessly, leaving them free to study Torah diligently without interference. For forty years they received spiritual food, without a worry in the world. Now they really had no excuse not to study Torah constantly and to grow in it. This was the test that faced Yisroel in the desert.


It's Never too Late!

"And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant" (14: 31).

The only other place in T'nach where the word "and they believed" occurs is in Yonah (3:5) "And the men of Ninveh believed in Hashem".

This is a strong hint for those who maintain that Par'oh later became King of Ninveh. He remembered what happened in Egypt at the Yam-Suf and eventually he did teshuvah (yes, Par'oh did teshuvah - according to those who say that he survived the Yam-Suf) and ended up believing in Hashem (Ba'al he'Turim).


The Ten Songs

"Oz Yoshir Moshe". "Yoshir" is the equivalent of 'yud shir' - ten songs. Because there are indeed ten songs spread out throughout T'nach: this one, the shir of the Well, the Shir of Ha'azinu, Yehoshua and Devorah; the Shir of Chanah, Dovid and Shlomoh, the Shir of Chizkiyah and that of the time of Moshi'ach (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz', based on the
rulings of the Chazon Ish by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.

Trading With Sh'mitah-fruit (cont.)

58. We have already explained that when one sells Sh'mitah fruit, both the money and the fruit adopt the sanctity of Shevi'is. That only applies however, to the original fruit. Should one then exchange the money for other money or purchase fruit with it, the sanctity of the first money is transferred to the second money or to the fruit, but the first money goes out to chulin (in the same way as it does by Hekdesh). And so it will be with any subsequent exchange. Should one for example, then exchange the fruit for meat or sell it for money, the meat or the money will adopt kedushas Shevi'is, and the fruit will go out to chulin (and so on ad infinitum). The last item always adopts kedushas Shevi'is and the previous one goes to chulin, with the sole exception of the original fruit, which does not go out to chulin.


59. One may only sell Sh'mitah-fruit in exchange for something that serves the same function as the item he is selling (e.g. food for food). One may not for example exchange Sh'mitah-fruit for household objects. It is permitted though, to exchange fruit for meat or fish (even though meat and fish are not subject to an intrinsic kedushas Shevi'is), since they are both food.

Should someone exchange Sh'mitah-fruit (or even meat or fish which have adopted kedushas Shevi'is) for a forbidden object, such as clothes or as payment for work, he is obliged to eat chulin to the equivalent value of the forbidden item with kedushas Shevi'is, in the form of a penalty.

One may however, sell Sh'mitah-fruit for money, despite the fact that it is not edible, since money is designated for purchasing. However, the money that one receives in exchange for Sh'mitah-fruit adopts the same Din as the fruit, and may only be used to purchase food or drink. In addition, it must be treated in the same manner as the fruit itself (as will be explained later).


60. A worker is permitted to earn money for work that he performs with Sh'mitah-fruit, provided he is performing a task that is permitted. Nor does the money he receives adopt kedushas Shevi'is. But he may not earn money in exchange for tasks that are forbidden. In the event that he does, Bedieved, the money he receives does not adopt kedushas Shevi'is, either.


61. Someone who works full-time doing business with Sh'mitah-fruit, is disqualified from testifying in court. Dealing with Sh'mitah-fruit is not something that the world needs, and anyone who does not occupy himself with establishing the world, is disqualified from testifying.


The species of Fruit
to which Sh'mitah is Applicable

62. Sh'mitah applies to human and animal food, to what is used to anoint humans, or as fuel for lighting and to what is used for dyeing (that is intended for the use of humans). Wood that is designated for the manufacture of brooms and brushes is also subject to kedushas Shevi'is. And a species that is not designated specifically for human or animal consumption, but that is used as such when necessary, is included too.

Dyes that are designated for the use of animals (even if they were initially picked for humans) and commodities that are used as fuel for burning, are not subject to kedushas Shevi'is. A commodity that is designated for soaking flax or skins or for washing clothes is subject to kedushas Shevi'is according to the Rambam, but not according to Rashi.


63. Fruit-peels that one tends to suck or that one feeds to animals or uses as dyes are subject to kedushas Shevi'is, and that is certainly so by peels that people tend to eat. Included in this category are the pits of olives, dates and carobs (though nowadays one tends to throw them away). Peels and pits that are only fit for burning are not subject to kedushas Shevi'is.


64. Something that was originally fir for human or animal consumption, at which stage it was sanctified with kedushas Shevi'is, but became totally unfit even for animal consumption, loses its sanctity and may be treated like chulin.


65. Perfumes which are themselves not fit for consumption, but which are treated with oil or with other commodities that are, are subject to kedushas Shevi'is, even though their main function is for smelling.


66. Flowers that are not meant to be picked are not subject to kedushas Shevi'is. Those that are, are subject to kedushas Shevi'is provided they have a pleasant smell.


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