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

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Vol. 9   No. 16

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Sarah Miriam bas Reb Moshe Pinchas - 10th Sh'vat,
Pesel Feigel bas Reb Chayim Elisha - 14th Sh'vat
Moshe Ya'akov b'Reb Mordechai Shlomoh - 24th Sh'vat

Parshas Beshalach

The Two Homecomings,
and the Third

"Cause dread and terror to fall on them (the chiefs of Edom, the strong men of Mo'av and the inhabitants of Cana'an), with the greatness of Your arm cause them to be silent".

Rashi cites Targum Unklus, who explains that the double expression refers to the miracles that took place when they crossed, first the River Arnon and then the Yarden.

The following Pasuk then flows beautifully, as it talks about bringing Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael and building the Beis Hamikdash (one of the rare places where the Torah actually refers to the House of G-d by name).


According to Chazal in Sotah (36a) however, the double expression refers to the two entries into Eretz Yisrael, the first with Yehoshua, the second, with Ezra. Perhaps, as the Maharsha explain there, Chazal declined to accept Unklus' explanation, because Yisrael did not actually cross the River Arnon. In any event, the Gemara in Sotah, commenting on the Pasuk "Cause dread and terror to fall on them", describes how when Yisrael crossed the Yarden, there wasn't a soul who could stand up to them, and that whoever chose to fight them was doomed.

Then, in connection with the double expression, they add that Yisrael were destined to experience the same sort of miracles when they entered the Land the second time with Ezra, following the Exodus from Bavel.

But this is not what happened. Upon their return from Bavel, they suffered endless hardships, with enemies from within as well as enemies from without. And it even reached a point where they were forced to build the walls with one hand, whilst, constantly afraid of attack, holding their swords in the other.

The deviation from the original prophecy, say Chazal, was due to their sins. Although there are various ways of explaining what Chazal mean by this, the Oznayim la'Torah observes that whereas Yisrael left Egypt on the merit of the righteous women of that generation, in stark contrast they left Bavel with non-Jewish wives.

This interpretation of the Pasuk will also help to explain why G-d's Name appears in the first phrase ("until Your people have passed, oh G-d"), but not in the second ("until this nation that You acquired has passed"), as the Meshech Chochmah explains. Because, he says, due to their sins, (particularly the sin of immoral conduct, which tends to drive it away), the Shechinah was not with them. Nor would the Shechinah, which was with them in the first Beis-Hamikdash, be with them throughout the duration of the second Beis-Hamikdash, as Chazal have taught in Yuma.


What remains difficult however, is why the Torah does not add a hint regarding the most significant homecoming of them all - namely, the third, the one which we impatiently await today?

Perhaps, according to the current interpretation of the Pasuk, it does. Perhaps the Pasuk that follows "Bring them and establish them in the mountain of Your inheritance ... " hints at the third homecoming.

Rashi in Yechezkel points out that in reality, Yechezkel's detailed description of the Beis-Hamikdash was intended to pertain to the second Beis-Hamikdash, which was meant to have been built permanently. Indeed, at the time when the prophecy was said, the second Beis-Hamikdash had not yet been built, and this is its obvious interpretation. Only, on account of their sins, it was not to be. Consequently, the second Beis-Hamikdash was built along the lines of the first, and Yechezkel's prophecy was postponed, and would pertain to the third and final Bayis.

In that case, perhaps we can solve our problem in the same way. The two homecomings were meant to pertain to our entry into Eretz Yisrael from Egypt and Bavel respectively. However, due to our sins, that did not work out. Consequently, the second homecoming (which is compared to the first), will take place at a later stage - upon our return from Galus Edom, as the Navi Michah writes (7:15) "Like the days of your Exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders". May we witness the fulfillment of this prophecy soon!


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
Only a Sheli'ach

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

In other words, says the Gro, the B'nei Yisrael now came to the realization that all the wonders that they had perceived in Egypt had been performed by G-d alone. Whatever Moshe did there was merely in his capacity as G-d's Sheli'ach.


What the Maidservants Saw

"This is my G-d and I will beautify Him, the G-d of my father (the Avos) and I will exalt Him" (15:2).

Rashi cites Chazal, who say that 'a maidservant at the Reed Sea saw what even the prophets did not see'. It is not at first clear as to how Chazal derive that from this Pasuk.


The G'ro explains it with the Mishnah in Bikurim (1:4), which teaches us that a Ger (proselyte) who brings his first-fruit to the Kohen, omits the words 'la'avoseinu' when he reads the Parshah (since his fathers did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael).

It appears that Chazal were bothered by the change of expression from "This is my G-d" to "the G-d of my father" in one and the same Pasuk. According to the Mishnah in Bikurim however, the problem is solved. Because it was the maidservants (and presumably, the male slaves too [who could not refer to the G-d of their fathers]) who proclaimed 'This is My G-d', whilst the rest of K'lal Yisrael declared "(This is) the G-d of my father(s)".


According to the Gemara in Sotah (11b), we can offer the same explanation, only in the reverse. The Gemara explains how it was the babies who had witnessed miracles in Egypt, when they were saved from the Egyptians (who were trying to kill them) by the Shechinah, who now recognized Him. Consequently, it was they who were able to sing 'This is my G-d', whereas the rest of Yisrael, who had not seen the Shechinah before, declared 'the G-d of my father(s)'.


G-d and the Avos

" ... the G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him" (15:7).

G-d's close relationship with the Avos recurs repeatedly in the Torah (see for example above 3:15). Consequently, explains the G'ro, what Yisrael meant when they sang this, was that the very mention of that association (an association in which G-d revels) is in itself an exaltation of G-d's Name.


G-d's Anger

"You send Your anger, it consumed them like straw".

The anger of a human being is abstract. It can achieve nothing per se, explains the G'ro, unless he follows up with an act. Only then will his anger bear fruit.

Not so G-d! He sent forth His anger, and no accompanying act was necessary for the anger to bear fruit. The anger itself consumed the enemy like straw.

And this is similar to the creation. When G-d created the world, He did so with words alone, as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos teaches 'The world was created with ten commands ("And G-d said 'Let there be light', and there was light!"). There too, this is something that is beyond man's capabilities, for man can only achieve his stated objective if his words are followed by actions. It is G-d alone whose words achieve just as efficiently as actions.


A Basket Needs Handles

"And He said, 'If you will listen to the Voice of Hashem and do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His Mitzvos ('ve'ha'azanto le'Mitzvosov') and keep all His statutes ... " (15:26).

The Gemara in Yevamos (21a) derives from the Pasuk in Koheles "ve'izein, ve'chiker tiken mesholim harbeh", that before Sh'lomoh arrived on the scene, Torah was like a basket without handles (it had no Rabbinical decrees to safeguard the Torah injuctions from being transgressed). "Ve'izein" means that he arranged handles by which to hold the Torah.


Rebbi Zalman from Valozhin, once remarked to his Rebbe, the G'ro, that if he may, he would suggest that this concept is already hinted in the Torah, here in the words "ve'Ha'azanto le'Mitzvosov" - which could be translated as 'and make handles (Rabbinical decrees) for the Mitzvos'.

The G'ro praised it.


Carrying on Shabbos
First on the List

"Each man must stay in his place. No man may leave his place on the seventh day (Al yeitzei ish ... )" 16:29.

Chazal explain this Pasuk to mean (not "Al yeitzei ish, but) Al yotzi ish (a man should not carry into the street) on Shabbos".

Tosfos asks at the beginning of Shabbos, why the Masechta begins with the melachah of carrying, when later in the Masechta, it will be the last of the thirty-nine melachos to be listed (see Tosfos Yom-tov).

The G'ro attributes Rebbi's decision to do so to the principle that Chazal always base their works on the written Torah. Consequently, Chazal would have chosen to begin with this melachah, seeing as it the only melachah specifically mentioned by the Torah, as we see here.

But how about lighting a fire, you may ask, which the Torah also mentions at the beginning of Vayakhel? Why did Rebbi not then open the Masechta with it, asks the G'ro?

And he answers that the author of our Mishnah may well be Rebbi Yossi, who holds that, unlike all of the other melachos, lighting a fire is only a plain La'av, whereas carrying is Chayav Kareis, like all the other melachos.


Interestingly, one of Tosfos' answers probably has the same basic S'vara as that of the G'ro. Because Rabeinu Tam bases his second answer on the fact that carrying is a weak melachah, and needs to be spefically mentioned to teach us that it is a melachah at all. And that is why the Tana chose to begin with it. According to the G'ro's answer, it is probably for the very same reason that the Torah singles out carrying, out of all the Melachos - because had it not done so, we would not have classified it as a melachah.


A Sixtieth of the Taste

"And the house of Yisrael called its name 'mon', and it resembled a coriander seed and its taste was like a dough fried in honey" (16:31).

How can the Pasuk compare the 'mon' to a honey dough, asks the G'ro, when, according to the Gemara in B'rachos (57b), honey is only one sixtieth of the taste of mon?

And, basing his answer on the principle that one food that falls into another adds taste up to a sixtieth, he explains the Pasuk like this."And its taste (a mixture into which the mon fell and to which it added taste [i.e. if the mon was a sixtieth of the dish]) was like a dough fried in honey". Why is that? Because honey is one sixtieth of the taste of mon.


The Amidah

(based largely on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XVII)
Atoh Chonen

This B'rachah follows Kedushah, because the Pasuk in Yeshayah (29:23) places knowledge next to sanctity. In addition, it is man's wisdom and understanding that distinguishes him from animal, and that imbues him with the ability to pray. And besides, without knowledge, man would be better off not to have been born, for how would he know how to do good and avoid doing evil (the basis of the next two B'rachos). For all these reasons, it is befitting to begin the middle B'rachos of Tefilah with this B'rachah.

'Atoh Chonen' contains seventeen words, equivalent to the numerical value of 'tov', and to the number of times that 'Chochmah' appears in Koheles.

Chazal fixed Havdalah in this B'rachah, because, they said, without understanding, we would be incapable of distinguishing between good and bad (symbolized by Kodesh and Chol, Shabbos and weekday). Interestingly, the first letters of 'Besamim, Yayin, Ner, Havdalah' (the four B'rachos that comprise Havdalah) spell 'Binah' (understanding).


Atoh Chonen le'Odom Da'as

Although lowly man consists of dust, blood and gall, as is hinted in the word 'adam' (Eifer, Dam, Marah), nevertheless, G-d graced him with the highest level of knowledge, 'Da'as', which is synonymous with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh (a lower level of prophecy), as Rashi explains in Ki Sisa. 'Binah' refers to the ability to develop the Chochmah that one acquires from one's Rebbe. 'Binah' is on a lower plain than Da'as, which is why it is mentioned in reference to 'enosh', a less distinguished description of man than 'adam'.

Alternatively, 'Da'as' refers to common sense, which is a G-d-sent gift, whereas 'Binah' is the result of one's own efforts (as we just explained). Hence the expression 'You grace', with regard to the former, and 'You teach', with regard to the latter.

And yet a third interpretation of 'Da'as' and 'Binah' presents the former as being synonymous with Chochmah (which, according to Nusach Ashkenaz, would otherwise be conspicuous in its absence). Consequently, 'Da'as' is the basic knowledge of Torah she'be'al Peh, which comes to a person in the form of a Divine gift, and 'Binah', a deeper understanding of that knowledge (Eitz Yosef).

The significance of 'Da'as' is best summed up by Chazal, who said in Vayikra Rabah 'Da'as chosarto, mah koniso, da'as koniso, mah chosarto' (If you lack knowledge, what have you acquired? If you have acquired knowledge, what do you lack')?


The First of the Middle B'rachos

All the middle B'rachos begin with a request, except for this one, the Iyun Tefilah observes. In one of his answers, he cites a Yerushalmi which rules that just as one may not perform any work before reciting Havdalah on Motza'ei Shabbos, so too, should one refrain from issuing requests before Havdalah. Consequently, Chazal worded this B'rachah in the form of praise, so that it should blend with Havdalah, which it contains and which we say on Motza'ei Shabbos. And for the sake of uniformity, they extended the same wording to the weekday Amidah as well.


Boruch Atoh Hashem, Chonen ha'Do'as

The ramifications of these words are stunning, inasmuch as they imply that all of man's decisions, however wise and whatever they achieve, are not his own, but emanate from G-d, who graced him with the knowledge and the common sense to arrive at those decisions. Indeed, the entire B'rachah serves to teach us that even that seemingly inherent trait is not inherent at all, but a gift from G-d, for which we need to pray in advance, and demonstrate our gratitude afterwards.


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