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

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Vol. 16   No. 16

This issue is sponsored jointly
and in honour of the birth of
Ahuva Miriam Soroveski n"y
she'yizku horiya l'gadla l'ben torah
l'chupah u'lemaasim tovim

Parshas Beshalach

To Maximize the Miracle
And Minimize the Test

When, giving a reason as to why G-d did not lead them by way of the P'lishtim, the Torah writes 'Lest (pen) the people relent when they see war ' ".

This is not an expression of doubt, R. Bachye explains, for G-d has no doubts; everything is revealed to Him. What the word 'pen' really means in this context, is 'so that they should not'. G-d led them on a circuitous route, to prevent, or at least, to minimize the chances of Yisrael displaying fear of war and returning to Egypt.

Likewise, when the Pasuk writes in Bereishis (3:22) "And now, lest (pen) he stretches out his hand and takes also from the Tree of Life", it is not an expression of doubt. There too, what the Pasuk is saying is that Adam was expelled from Gan Eden to prevent him from eating from it. In both cases, G-d was merely removing the possibility or the likelihood of transgressing what was now a La'av (in this case, not to regret having left Egypt) -as Chazal have said 'Hishamer', 'Pen' and 'Al' are all La'avin.


But, one may well ask, were Yisrael not confronted by wars anyway, such as the war against Amalek, who attacked them not long after they left Egypt, notwithstanding the long, roundabout route that they took?

This is not a kashya, says R. Bachye, since this was a single, short-lived attack, not the sort of war that would encourage them to return to Egypt. And besides, Yisrael did not pass through the territory of Amalek (which is what G-d was concerned about here), but rather it was Amalek who attacked from afar, in which case it was totally unconnected with the issue on hand.


The author then cites Rabeinu Chananel, who gives a different reason for the circuitous route on which G-d led them. He explains that G-d led them through the desert, and not directly through the land of the P'lishtim, in order to increase the quota of miracles. Had He taken Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael via the Land of the P'lishtim, and put the thought into their heads to allow them to pass peacefully through their land in order to reach their destination, this would have constituted a relatively small miracle which would have left some impression on K'lal Yisrael, but not much. Therefore, G-d, in His wisdom, opted to take them through the Desert, thereby allowing Yisrael the opportunity of witnessing a wide variety of miracles (the Manna, the quails, water from the rock, to name but a few). In fact, the further they traveled from inhabited areas, the greater the wonder that people (a nation numbering a few million to boot) could survive at all in such hostile surroundings. Indeed, it is G-d's way to perform wonders and miracles with Tzadikim, like He did with Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah, whom He saved from a fiery furnace. He could have saved them by extinguishing the fire (a small miracle), yet, in order to magnify the miracle manifold, He performed a miracle within a miracle, by keeping them alive even as the fire raged around them, without burning as much as a hair on their head, as described in Daniel (3:27). In the same way, G-d could have saved Daniel in the lion's den by killing the lions. But He opted to keep Daniel alive, sending an angel to prevent the huge beasts from attacking him (Ibid, 6:23), a miracle within a miracle.

And so we find in Shoftim (Chapter 7), when Yisrael, numbering twenty-two thousand, led by the Shofet Gide'on, were facing the army of Midyan. There is no doubt that a victory against the vastly superior enemy would have been considered nothing short of a miracle had the army consisted of ten thousand men (the number that remained after the first wave of soldiers had been sent home); Yet G-d enhanced the miraculous aspect of the victory, by ordering Gide'on to send wave after wave of soldiers home, until he was left with only three hundred men. And those three hundred men attacked Midyan and routed them.


On the one hand we have the Ramban, who teaches in Parshas No'ach that basically, G-d prefers to minimize the miracle and to maximize one's test of faith. Yet on the other, we also have Rabeinu Chananel, who explains that there are occasions when He sees fit to make a lasting impression on K'lal Yisrael, by maximizing the miracle and minimizing the test. In the Desert, Rabeinu Chananel concludes, precisely because everything that Yisrael experienced was inevitably (and deliberately) intended to test their faith, G-d displayed an endless series of miracles, in order to strengthen their Bitochon (trust), which is the root of Emunah (faith). This in turn, would raise their level to render them worthy of receiving the Torah. That explains why, he says, G-d split the Sea to allow Yisrael to pass through it, not in one go, but little by little, so as to test their Bitachon; That is why, when Yisrael arrived at Marah, they found the naturally sweet water bitter, before by means of the bitter wood, they turned sweet once more; That is why the Manna fell day by day, and not for long periods at a stretch - indeed, the Torah describes each of these two cases as 'tests'!; And that is why when they were lax from the Torah that they had received at Marah, G-d sent Amalek to attack them (since it is due to Bitul Torah that troubles come upon Yisrael). All of these, says Rabeinu Chananel, were intended to test Yisrael's Midah of Bitachon, and to then strengthen it by means of the miracles that followed. All this, he concludes comes to impress upon us the vital role that Bitachon plays in our lives, as it was clearly the keynote of our initial wanderings in the Desert.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

They Went Out Armed

"And the B'nei Yisrael left the Land of Egypt armed (Chamushim)" (13:18).

The truth of the matter, R. Bachye comments, is that Yisrael (whose commander-in-chief is "the Man of War, whose Name is Hashem"), are not like other nations, who need weapons to defeat their enemy. Yet G-d expects us to conform with the laws of nature that He created and to act by them to one's utmost ability, and then to rely on Him to do the rest by way of miracle.

That explains why G-d ordered Yehoshua to place an ambush behind the city of Ai, in spite of the fact that the conquest of Cana'an that had just begun would be replete with miracles. And so Shlomoh Hamelech writes in Mishlei (21:31) "The horse is prepared for the day of war, but salvation belongs to G-d".


Interestingly, the Torah presents this concept specifically in this Parshah, immediately prior to K'ri'as Yam-Suf, where G-d instructed the people to "stand still and watch" what He was about to do to the enemy, without the slightest participation on their part.

Perhaps this was to demonstrate, once and for all, a. that victory belongs to Him, and to Him alone, and that our participation in future wars is because that is what He wants us to do (and not because He needs us), and b. that once we have done what we need to do, we can rely on Him fully to complete the job.


Five, Fifty or Five Hundred?


In another interpretation of the word "va'Chamushim", R. Bachye cites a Medrash that explains it either as 'one in five', 'one in fifty' or as 'one in five hundred'.

Similarly, he cites another Medrash, which interprets the words "ve'sholishim al kulo" (14:6 [which generally translates as 'and captains over all of them']) either as 'Three Egyptians, 'thirty or three hundred for each Yisrael'.

And the two sets of numbers, he says, are correlated.

According to the first interpretation of the first set of Medrashim, Yisrael before the plague of darkness numbered three million, corresponding to each of which three hundred Egyptians gave chase (even though Yisrael now numbered only six hundred thousand).

According to the second interpretation, Yisrael had originally numbered thirty million, corresponding to each of which thirty Egyptians gave chase. Whilst according to the third interpretation, it was three Egyptians who chased each of the three hundred million B'nei Yisrael .

According to all three explanations, says R. Bachye, there were nine hundred million Egyptians pursuing six hundred thousand Jewish men (plus their families) three million B'nei Yisrael.

And correspondingly, the Medrash tells us that G-d sent against the Egyptians ninety thousand destructive angels (perhaps the word 'Ribu' [x ten thousand] is missing).

I don't know what to make of the staggering figures, but the explanation is fascinating!


Why They Left Egypt


Alternatively, R. Bachye points out, the word "Chamushim" is missing a 'Vav' (which now reads 'Chamishim'), a hint to the fifty-day period between the time Yisrael left Egypt and Matan Torah, which was the main objective of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. Interestingly, this was already hinted to Moshe, when G-d informed him at the Burning Bush that, upon leaving Egypt, Yisrael would serve Him on that very Mountain, and where the word "Ta'avdun" contains an extra 'Nun' (Sh'mos 3:12).


When Yisrael Fled

"And it was told to the King of Egypt that the people had fled" (14:5).

The three-day celebration period that Moshe had asked for had expired and Yisrael had not returned.

R. Bachye gives the table of events that occurred between the fifteenth and the twenty-first of Nisan

On the fifteenth day, the night and day of the sixteenth of Nisan Yisrael traveled, moving away from Egypt;

On the night and day of the seventeenth and the night of the eighteenth the spies that Par'oh had sent with Yisrael (see Rashi) raced back to Egypt to inform Par'oh that Yisrael had fled (whilst Yisrael returned to Pi ha'Chiros (Pisom) and encamped opposite Ba'al Tz'fon);

On the eighteenth and the night of the nineteenth Par'oh mobilized the army and the horses for the cavalry to pursue Yisrael;

On the day of the nineteenth and the night and day of the twentieth the Egyptian army pursued Yisrael;

At the end of the twentieth they arrived at Pi Ha'chiros and encamped opposite the Camp of Yisrael.

Throughout the night of the twenty-first of Nisan the two camps remained where they were (whilst G-d maneuvered the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire, as described in the Torah) .

At the beginning of the twenty-first day Yisrael entered the sea-bed of the Yam-Suf, followed closely by the Egyptian army.

A short time later the Egyptian army were all dead, and Yisrael sang Shirah.


An Additional Strategy

(Ibid.) According to the Medrash, says R. Bachye, it was at this juncture that Par'oh was informed about the prophesy of the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, where G-d had told Avraham about the four hundred years that his descendants would be enslaved in a foreign country. Realizing that that they had only been in Egypt for two hundred and ten years, he concluded that Yisrael had gone out too early; so he chased after them to bring them back.

The author has already listed a number of strategies that G-d employed to induce Par'oh to change his mind and chase after B'nei Yisrael: 1. the fact that they were traveling day and night to escape (and that after three days they made no effort to return); 2. that they then traveled back towards Egypt (as if they were lost in the desert); 3. that they had encamped opposite Ba'al Tz'fon (the only Egyptian idol still standing), and 4. that they had fled with the precious things that they had 'borrowed' (Rashi).

Here was an additional one!

* * *


' Moshe stretched out his hand over the Sea, and, as it turned morning, the Sea returned to its former strength; and there were the Egyptians fleeing towards the waves; and G-d gave the Egyptians the strength, in the middle of the (turbulent) Sea to survive, so that they should receive the deserved punishment that He was sending them' (14:27).


'Then, Moshe and the B'nei Yisrael sang this song of praise before G-d, and they said, saying "Let us thank and praise the High G-d who is Proud over those who are Proud, and exalted over those who are arrogant. He personally exacts punishment from whosoever is conceited before Him; for when the wicked Par'oh brazenly sinned before G-d, and in his arrogance, he pursued after the people of B'nei Yisrael, He (G-d) lifted up horses and riders and cast them deep into the Reed Sea' (15:1).


'The might and many praiseworthy deeds cast Fear upon the world. He spoke with His Word and became a redeeming G-d; The babies stopped feeding from their mothers' breasts, to show their fathers with their fingers and declared "This is our G-d, who provided us with honey from the rock and oil from the flint-rock at the time when (in Egypt) our mothers went out to the open fields and gave birth (to us) and left us there. He then sent us an angel, who bathed us and wrapped us up. So now, let us thank the G-d of our Fathers and exalt Him' (15:2).


'The B'nei Yisrael then said "G-d is the 'Man' who wages our wars in every generation; He demonstrates His strength to His people the House of Yisrael; like His Name so is His strength (see Pirush Yonasan). May His Name be blessed for all generations' (15:3).


'And in Your abundant Pride You break down the walls of the enemies of Your Nation, You incite against them the force of Your Anger; You annihilate them like a burning fire destroys stubble' (15:7).


'The Sea and dry land were engaged in a quarrel; The Sea said to the land "Accept your sons (for burial)!"; whilst the land said to the Sea "Accept the ones that you killed!". Neither the Sea agreed to absorb them, nor did the land agree to bury them. Indeed, it was afraid to accept them, so as not to have to give reckoning on the final day of judgement in the World to Come, just as it will have to do for having accepted the blood of Hevel. Immediately, G-d stretched out His Right Hand over the land, and made an oath that it (the land) would not be taken to task (for this) in the World to Come; So the land 'opened its mouth' and absorbed them' (15:12) .

* * *

(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 125:
Not to Add Olive Oil to the Flour-Offering of a Sinner

The Kohen who brings the sin-offering of a poor man, is not permitted to add oil, as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:11) "He shall not place oil on it ", even though all other Menachos require oil. The reason that the author refers specifically to the Minchah of a poor sinner, is because a wealthy sinner never brings a sin-offering of flour, only an animal, as the Torah specifically states.

A reason for the Mitzvah because oil hints at superiority and greatness, this in turn, because if one adds oil to any liquid, it will always rise to the top. This is in itself, a very important thing. Now the significance of good-quality oil is well-known, which is why it is used to anoint kings and Kohanim when they are inaugurated. And that is why it is not befitting to place oil in the Minchah of a sinner, who needs to display worry and humility for having sinned. It may well also be out of pity for the poor man, in order not to trouble him more than necessary to bring oil; since G-d does not trouble any creature unnecessarily. And this is also the reason that the Torah confined his Korban to a small amount of flour, and no more. On the other hand, there is no such person, even the poorest of the poor, who does not possess a little flour. And the above reason will also suffice to explain as to why the sinner did not add frankincense to his Korban. Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have said in Menachos (76b) that the Minchas Chotei consisted of one tenth of an Eifah (forty-three and a fifth egg-volumes), no less and no more. And all Menachos that are brought on the Mizbei'ach require oil, Levonah (frankincense) and a lug of oil for each tenth-Eifah. And each Minchah required a fistful of Levonah, whether it comprised one tenth of an Eifah ar sixty Isronos and cannot bring more than sixty 'tenths' for one Minchah, with the exception of the Minchah of Jealousy (of a Sotah) and a Minchas Chotei, neither of which may contain oil or frankincense, as the Torah writes (in Vayikra "Do not place on it oil, do not place on it frankincense ") and the remaining details are discussed in Mencahos.

This Mitzvah applies when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, to male Kohanim, since they are the ones who perform the Avodah. A Kohen who contravenes it and adds oil to this Minchah belonging to a poor sinner is subject to a poor man.


Mitzvah 126:
Not to Add Frankincense to the Flour-Offering of a Sinner

The Kohen who brings the sin-offering of a poor man, is not permitted to add frankincense, as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:11) " nor may he place on it Levonah ". The Mishnah in Menachos (5:4) rules that placing oil on the Minchas Ani and placing frankincense are two separate La'avin, and that each one is subject to Malkos independently. The details pertaining to Levonah are similar to those that pertain to oil, as we explained in the previous Mitzvah, and it is not necessary to repeat them.

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