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

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Vol. 15   No. 16

This issue is sponsored
by Rabbi Y. Kaufman n.y.
in honor of his Chavruso
Rabbi Michael Cohen n.y.

Parshas Beshalach

Timna, Elifaz and Amalek
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. and Tosfos)

The Torah records how hardly had Yisrael shaken off the yoke of the Egyptians, than they were attacked by Amalek.

Why, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., did Amalek wait until now to attack? Why did he not attack them on their way down to Egypt, more than two hundred years earlier, when they were only seventy people, outnumbered by far and very much more vulnerable?

G-d informed Avraham Avinu, they answer, that his children would be enslaved and tormented for four hundred years. When Avraham died, that 'debt' passed on to Yitzchak, and when Yitzchak died, it was passed on to Ya'akov and his children. So the shrewd Amalek figured that were he to kill Ya'akov and his children before they have served the full term of slavery in Egypt, then he would inherit the debt, and become obligated to move to Egypt and suffer the humiliation and pain of enslavement. That is why he waited until Yisrael had completed their term of slavery, and only then (when he knew that the decree had come to an end) did he attack, with the intention of inheriting Eretz Yisrael, without having to suffer the preliminary exile.

According to Tosfos' version of the above Medrash, Eisav made his son Elifaz swear that he would kill Ya'akov following the episode with the B'rachos, assuring him that if he did, he, as his firstborn, would eventually inherit the birthright. Elifaz went to consult his mother, Timna (see final paragraph 'Who was Timna?'). She advised him not to listen to his father, since Ya'akov was stronger than him and was therefore likely to kill him. What's more, she added, had his wicked father must have realized that too, because had he not been afraid of Ya'akov, he would surely have derived more satisfaction in doing the job himself, rather than charge somebody else with the mission.


So what did Elifaz do? He went to Ya'akov and took from him everything that he owned. In so doing, he was considered as having fulfilled the oath that he had made to his father, inasmuch as a poor person is considered as dead (as Chazal have taught).

In the more conventional version of the Medrash, cited by Rashi in Vayeitzei (29:11), Elifaz chased Ya'akov on his way to Charan with the intention of killing him, and it was Ya'akov who persuaded him to desist and to take all his money instead (as we explained). And the reason that Elifaz agreed to his uncle's proposal was because he had been brought up by his grandfather Yitzchak.


When Eisav saw that that his brother Ya'akov was still alive, he ordered Amalek, Elifaz' son, to kill him. Amalek, who obviously had closer connections with his grandfather Eisav than with Yitzchak (his grand-uncle), and who did not possess the refined character-traits of his father, was only too happy to accept such an undertaking, and did not hesitate to swear to his grandfather that he would carry out his wish.

When Timna got wind of her son's plans, she tried in vain, to talk him out of his undertaking, just as she had talked his father out of it. Amalek was not interested in foregoing the pleasure of killing his great-uncle. She did however, succeed in persuading him to postpone his plans, on the grounds that the children of Avraham were destined to become slaves in a foreign land, and that if it was not Ya'akov and his children who would fulfill that prophecy, then the lot would in all likelihood, fall on him and his descendants, as we explained. So he waited. And now that the debt had been paid, he attacked.


Who was Timna?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin describes Timna as 'a daughter of kings' who wished to convert (i.e. to join the ranks of the Avos, who believed in the One G-d). So she went first to Avraham, then to Yitzchak and finally to Ya'akov (asking them to marry her), but each in turn, refused to accept her. She therefore decided that rather than become a mistress in the house of some other nation, she would become a concubine of somebody in the only monotheistic family in the world. So she became the concubine of Eisav's son Elifaz. In the version of the Tanchuma, Elifaz had relations with the wife of the King of Se'ir, who bore him Timna, whom he subsequently took as a concubine.


According to the Sifri, what she said was that if she was not worthy of becoming Eisav's wife, she would at least become his concubine. Consequently, Timna was not Elifaz' wife, but his mother. Clearly, this is the opinion to which Tosfos, mentioned above, subscribes [See Vayishlach, 36:12])

It is interesting that the righteous Timna, who on the one hand, saved Ya'akov from the clutches of both Elifaz and her son Amalek, on the other, mothered Amalek, who would become the arch-enemy of the very nation that she had been so eager to join. As the Gemara in Sanhedrin explains, this was the Divine retribution due to the Avos for having rejected her in the first place.

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Parsha Pearls

Light or Darkness

"And it came between the Camp of Egypt and the Camp of Yisrael, and there was cloud and darkness, whilst it (the Pillar of Fire) illuminated the night (for Yisrael) " (14:20).

This is how Rashi translates the Pasuk.

The Rosh however, based on the opening Sugya in the Gemara Pesachim (which interprets the word 'Or' as darkness), translates it like this - "And it came between the Camp of Egypt and the Camp of Yisrael, and there was cloud and darkness, which made it dark (for the Egyptians)". And that explains why, in spite of the Pillar of Fire that stood in front of K'lal Yisrael and lit up the night on their behalf, the Egyptians remained in darkness, and were therefore unable to attack Yisrael.


One Day Out?

'K'ri'as Yam-Suf' took place on the twenty-first of Nisan, on the seventh day of Pesach, as is well-known.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. queries this however, from Rashi at the end of Sh'lach-L'cha, who attributes the eight threads of Tzitzis to the fact that Yisrael delayed eight days before singing the Shirah at the Yam-Suf (as a sort of Kaparah for the delay)?

The answer they say, is that Rashi there is referring to the eighth day after Erev Pesach (the fourteenth of Nisan), when they began preparing themselves to leave. This is because, from the moment they Shechted the Korban Pesach, they knew that they would leave the following day, and began to prepare provisions for the journey, even though they did not manage to finish the job, as the Pasuk testifies in Parshas Bo (12:39) "and also provisions they did not make for themselves".

Perhaps this was because they were forbidden to leave their houses that night, depriving them of the opportunity of working in their bakeries.


Did One Survive or Not?

"Up until one did not remain" (14:28).

This implies that one did remain. That one, says the Medrash, was Paroh, who some say, later became King of Ninveh.

The Da'as Zekeinim quotes a Pasuk in Tehilim (106:11) "not one of them remained", implying that not even Paroh survived? That, they answer, pertains to his army, which perished entirely, but he himself remained alive.


I recently saw a quote from a Medrash, which explains that Paroh went down together with his army, only G-d performed a miracle and brought him up six months later, thereby reconciling the two Pesukim.


The Heart of the Sea

"The depths congealed in the heart of the Sea" (15:8).

Just as the heart of a person is one third of the way down his body, so too, did the Yam-Suf congeal one third of the way down, whilst the water that remained in the top third piled up at the sides, the Da'as Zekeinim explains.

Had it been the sea-bed that congealed, he says, Yisrael would not have been able to climb up on to dry land, due to the steepness of the banks.


Double Distinction

"Who is like You among the strong ones, who is like you Mighty in Holiness " (15:11).

One Pasuk describes how G-d caused the water to congeal and to pile up with the breath in His Nostrils, whilst another writes that when He breathed on the congealed water, it melted, covering the Egyptians and drowning them.

Considering that a human breathes hot air through his nostrils, which causes frozen things to thaw, and cold air from his mouth, which causes liquid to congeal, G-d performed a dual miracle here, congealing with the breath of His nostrils, and thawing with the breath of His Mouth. Hence the repetition of the expression "Who is like You ".


True Leadership

" You led them with Your strength to Your holy Abode" (15:13).

Unklus, Rashi points out, translates the word "nehalto" as 'You carried (them)', rather than "You led them".

The reason for this, the Chidushei ha'Rim explains, is because this translation has connotations of 'patience', and patience (the ability to deal with each and every person at his level) is an intrinsic ingredient of leadership. That being the case, Unklus has not really changed the meaning of the word at all.


Anger Doesn't Pay

"But they did not listen to Moshe; Some men left over from it, and it became infested with worms and it stank. And Moshe was angry with them" (15:20).

Three times, says Tosfos, Moshe became angry, resulting each time in negative repercussions.

On this occasion, Moshe forgot to tell them the prohibition of Shabbos (See Rashi Pasuk 22). Later, in Parshas Shemini, when, following the death of Nadav and Avihu, he discovered that Aharon had burned the goat of his sin-offering, he became angry with Elazar and Isamar, so he forgot the current Halachah (that Aharon was not permitted to eat that particular Korban). And in Parshas Matos, when he became angry with the captains of war for keeping alive the Midianite women, he forgot to teach the people the Dinim of Kashering vessels.


Preparing for Shabbos

"And it shall be (ve'hoyoh) that on Friday, when they prepare what they bring, it will be double " (16:5).

Based no doubt on Chazal, who says that the word "ve'hoyoh" always has connotations of Simchah (joy), the Chidushei ha'Rim extrapolates from this Pasuk that the joy with which one prepares for Shabbos, is part of the preparations of Shabbos. What he presumably means is that one's enjoyment of Shabbos is commensurate with the joy with which one performs the preparations.

* * *


"Speak with B'nei Yisrael, and they shall go back and encamp in front of Pi ha'Chiros, that is square-shaped, and was created to resemble people, a man and a woman, whose eyes are open; that is the place known as Taneis, between Migdol and the Sea, located in front of Ba'al-Tz'fon, the only one of the Egyptian idols that remained, and was not smitten. And when they come to prostrate themselves before it, they will find you encamped in front of it by the sea shore (14:3).


"And G-d said to Moshe 'Why are you standing and praying to Me? The prayers of My people have preceded yours " (14:15).


" Moshe stretched out his hand over the Sea with the great and precious staff that was created at the time of the Creation (on Erev Shabbos at dusk), on which were clearly engraved the great and precious Name of Hashem, and the ten commandments with which He plagued the Egyptians, as well as the names of the three forefathers, the six mothers and the twelve tribes of Ya'akov " (14:21).


" B'nei Yisrael entered the Sea on dry land, and the water had congealed and rose like walls, to a height of three hundred Mil on their right and on their left" (14:22).


"And it was at the time of the morning watch, when the celestial hosts come to praise Hashem, that G-d looked angrily upon the Egyptian camp with the Pillar of Fire, to rain down on them coals of fire, and with the Pillar of Cloud, to throw on them balls of hail, causing the Egyptian Camp to go crazy" (14:24).


"And Miriam the prophetess took a drum in her hands and all the women followed her, with the beating of drums and dancing" (15:20).


"" Miriam sang to them, 'Let us thank and praise Hashem, for to Him belong Might and Pride; He is exalted over the arrogant and He boasts over those who are conceited; Because the evil Paroh went and chased after the people of B'nei Yisrael, G-d raised his horses and chariots and cast them into the Yam-Suf' " (15:21).


" Moshe made Yisrael travel from the Yam-Suf, and they went to the Desert of Chalutz. They traveled in the desert for three days without Mitzvos, and they did not find water" (15:22).


"And he prayed to Hashem, Who showed him a bitter Ardufni tree. So he wrote on it the great, precious Name of Hashem, which he then threw into the water, which then became sweet. There the Word of Hashem gave them the Mitzvah of Shabbos, of honouring one's father and mother, the Dinim regarding wounding a fellow-Jew and of penalizing sinners, and there He tested them with the tenth trial" (15:25).


"And he said, 'If you will obey the commands of Hashem and you do before Him what is right, you listen to His commands and observe all His Mitzvos - then all the evil plagues that I placed on Egypt I will not place on you; whereas if you transgress the commandments of the Torah, and the plagues are sent on you, then, if you do Teshuvah, I will remove them from you, for I am Hashem who heals you" (15:26).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah

Mitzvah 85
Desisting from Work on Shabbos

It is a Mitzvah to desist from work on Shabbos, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:12) " and on the seventh day you shall rest". We have already discussed all the relevant details of this Mitzvah above in Mitzvah in the Aseres ha'Dibros in the La'av that goes with the Asei. The Mitzvah of Shabbos is repeated no less than twelve times in the Torah.


Mitzvah 86
Not to Swear by the Name of an Idol

We are forbidden to swear by the name of any idol, even to its adherents, nor are we permitted to make a gentile swear by it, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:13) " nor shall you cause it to be heard" (incorporating both the person who swears and the one who makes him swear). There are those who restrict this Pasuk with reference to someone who has dealings with a gentile on his festivals and who benefits him financially, with the result that he then goes and offers thanks to his god, rendering the One who caused him to do so guilty of 'Lo Sazkiru'. This opinion interprets the La'av to mean that one may not cause someone to mention the name of his gods in a way that is forbidden to them, i.e. with the intention of worshiping them, since gentiles are also included in the prohibition of idolatry. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (63b) adds a Rabbinical decree, in that one may not ask one's friend to wait for him besides such-and-such an Avodah-Zarah.

A reason for the Mitzvah to distance oneself from all forms of Avodah-Zarah both in deed and in speech, up to the point that no thought of it ever enters one's mind. Our sages actually took note that so abhorrent is Avodah-Zarah in the Eyes of G-d that it appears no less than forty-four times in the Torah.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have said that even the mention of Avodah-Zarah not in connection with an oath is forbidden Interestingly, one is permitted to mention the name of any idol that is mentioned in T'nach (such as Pe'or, Beil and N'vo [since they are all extinct]) It is forbidden to cause someone to swear or to establish anything by the name of an idol. Nevertheless, it is only the person who actually swears or who establishes by its name, who is subject to Malkos, but not the one who causes him to swear, even though, according to the Rambam, he is included in the La'av and all its remaining details are discussed in the seventh chapter of Sanhedrin.

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