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

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Vol. 18   No. 16

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Shaindel bas Michoel z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 10 Shevat
Yaakov Aharon ben Yissachar z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 13 Shevat

Parshas Beshalach

Serach bas Asher &
Yosef's Coffin

Commenting on Moshe's efforts to locate Yosef's coffin, whilst the rest of the people busied themselves with 'borrowing' silver and gold, the Gemara in Sotah (13a) describes Moshe Rabeinu as "a wise-hearted man who takes Mitzvos". To be sure, Yisrael had been commanded to 'borrow' the Egyptians' silver and gold, in which case, it too, was a Mitzvah. Yet one can presumably not compare a Mitzvah that enriches the one who fulfils it and the Mitzvah of Chesd shel Emes.

The problem now was that Moshe did not know where Yosef was buried (bear in mind that the burial had taken place some hundred and forty years earlier). As a matter of fact, Par'oh had ordered his embalmed body to be placed in a metal coffin, which the Egyptians subsequently sunk in the River Nile. This they did to ensure that he would be inaccessible to Yisrael, so that they would not be able to transport his body to Eretz Yisrael, like they had that of Ya'akov. And this in turn, was because they believed that as long as his body remained in Egypt, the blessing of Ya'akov Avinu that the River Nile would provide Egypt with an abundance of water would continue to be fulfilled, Indeed, they would have forbidden the removal of Ya'akov's body had it not been for the fact that the all-powerful Tzofnas Pa'ne'ach (alias Yosef) insisted on re-interring him (Maharsha) or because the same Yosef forced Par'oh to acquiesce to his request to bury Ya'akov in Cana'an due to the oath that he had made to his father as the Medrash relates.

So what did Moshe do? In of version, the Gemara there explains that, to locate Yosef's coffin, he asked Serach, Asher's daughter, who was still alive (more than two hundred years after informing Ya'akov that Yosef was alive and well [indeed, she was one of the nine people who was destined to go alive into Gan Eden; so she never actually died). In response, Serach pointed out the exact spot in the River Nile into which Yosef's coffin had been cast.


Why, asks Tosfos, did Moshe ask Serach and not Machir and Ya'ir the sons of Menasheh, who were already born in the days of Ya'akov, and who were among those who entered Eretz Yisrael more than two hundred and fifty years later? They were, after all, Yosef's grandchildren, and they would certainly have known where Yosef was buried, no less that Serach, who was the daughter of Asher?

Citing Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, Tosfos answers that Serach had been handed the secret of the redemption. Consequently, when Moshe claimed that G-d had sent him to redeem Yisrael and to take them out of Egypt, the elders approached her to ascertain that he was genuine. They were still reeling from the fate of the two hundred thousand men from the Tribe of Efrayim, who had erred in their estimate of when the redemption was due, who had left Egypt thirty years earlier and who had all been wiped out by the men of Gas.

In response, she asked them for the exact words used by the professed redeemer. And when they told her that he had used the words "pokod pokadti" (which incorporates the hidden message that G-d had deducted a hundred and ninety years from four hundred predestined years of exile), she confirmed that these were the words that she had been told the redeemer would use, and that Moshe Rabeinu was therefore the right man.

Moshe, Tosfos explains, took his cue from the elders, and asked Serach (rather than Machir and Ya'ir, sons of Menasheh) for the location of Yosef's burial-place.


With reference to our opening statement, the K'li Yakar adds another dimension regarding Moshe's choice in picking the Mitzvah of taking Yosef's coffin (a Mitzvah which incidentally, landed Yosef his reward in burying his illustrious father, and for which Moshe himself would be likewise rewarded in that G-d Himself buried him when he died). Based on the Medrash on the Pasuk in Hallel "The sea saw and it fled!", which explains that the Yam-Suf refused to split until it saw the coffin of Yosef, who fled when his mistress tried to force him to sin with her. So it did likewise. The K'li Yakar suggests that Moshe foresaw this scenario, which is why he made a point of choosing to perform this Mitzvah at all costs.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

The Best Snake

" … and all the chariots of Egypt" (14:7).

Rashi explains that they obtained all these animals from those Egyptians who feared G-d and took their animals inside when the plague of hail was announced. And he quotes R, Yishmael, who learns from here that when one comes across the best snake, one should crush its head.

Where is this hinted, asks the Riva?

And he reminds us that the Navi Yechezkel (29:3) describes Par'oh as "ha'Tanin ha'Godol" (the great snake). And it is about him that Chazal declared 'the best snake, crush his head!'


Going Against the Laws of Nature

"… with the breath of Your nostrils the water piled up …You blew with Your breath, the sea covered them" (15:8:10).

The Riva points out that G-d's actions here went against the grain. Generally, a person breaths hot air from his nostrils and cold air from his mouth. That being the case, one would have expected Hashem to cause the water to congeal by breathing on it (Kevayachol) cold air from his mouth, and to cause the walls to melt and flow once again, by breathing on it hot air through his nostrils.

Yet He did the very opposite, as the Torah testifies.

Interestingly, G-d seems to have twisted the laws of nature a number of times when dealing with Yisrael in the desert. A case in point is the fact that He supplied Yisrael with water that came from the ground (i.e. Miriam's well), whereas their bread (the Manna) came from the sky.


Sing Angels, Sing!

"And Miriam announced to them (lohem) 'Sing to Hashem …'" (15:21).

Bearing in mind that Miriam was speaking to the women, asks the Riva, why did the Torah write "lohem' (which is masculine) and not 'lohen'?

To answer the question, he cites a Medrash that when Miriam was about to sing with the women, the angels complained that if the men preceded them in singing the Shirah, it was not fair that the women should precede them too. And it was to the angels that Miriam now turned and granted them permission to sing before the women.

Chazal have taught that G-d stopped the angels from singing altogether (since it was not proper for them to sing whilst His Creations were drowning in the sea [See 'Highlights …' 14:20]), but that was during the actual time that the Egyptians were drowning, whereas we are speaking about the morning after, which was when Yisrael sang Shirah, and there was no reason why the angels should not sing, too.


Did Moshe Know?

"Bring them and implant them to the Mountain of Your inheritance" (16:17).

Commenting on Moshe's reference to "them", as opposed to 'us', Rashi explains that Moshe was prophesying here that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael.

But surely, asks the Riva, G-d had already told him that at the end of Parshas Sh'mos, where Rashi wrote "Now you will see what I will do to Par'oh, but you will not see what I will do to the Seven Nations! The Chizkuni answers that G-d did not inform Moshe specifically of His decision; It is we who extrapolate G-d's statement in that way. At the time, Moshe did not realize what he was saying. Perhaps, we might add, we would not have explained the Pasuk in this way, if we had not known what happened later.

Alternatively, he answers the Kashya by reiterating what he wrote there (at the end of Parshas Sh'mos); namely that the decree in Sh'mos merely meant that he would not be involved in the revenge against the seven nations, but not that he would not enter the land at all. Whereas here the Pasuk adds, Moshe prophesied that he would not enter the Land at all.

The Chizkuni however, asks further from Rashi in Parshas Beha'aloscha.

Commenting on the Pasuk "We are traveling to the Place …"), Rashi explains that Moshe included himself there, since no decree had as yet been formally issued against his entering Eretz Yisrael.

To reconcile this with Rashi here, who indicates that Moshe knew already here that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael, R. Elyakim replies (in similar vein to the Chizkuni in his first answer) that Moshe's statement here constituted a prophecy of which he was not even aware. He was not prophesying of his own freewill. The prophesy fell into his mouth and he himself did not realize what he was saying.


Forty Years in the Desert?

"And B'nei Yisrael ate the Manna for forty years, until they arrived in inhabited country" (16:35).

Why, asks the Riva, did G-d not take Yisrael straight to Eretz Yisrael after leaving Egypt?

His first answer is taken directly from the Sifri, who quoting G-d Himself, states: 'If I take them into the Land now, each man will take possession of his field and of his vineyard, and will find himself too busy to study Torah. Let Me rather take them through the desert for forty years, where they will eat Manna and quails, and drink the water from Miriam's well. Meanwhile, the Torah will become part of their system!

Alternatively, it was the result of things that took place in Eretz Cana'an. When the Cana'anim heard that Yisrael were about to enter the Land, they burned the crops, cut down the trees, demolished the houses and stopped-up the fountains. So G-d declared 'I did not promise Avraham that I would bring his children to a devastated country, but to a land that is full of good. Let Me therefore take them through the desert for forty years, until such time as the Cana'anim have rebuilt what they destroyed, so that I can fulfill My promise to Avraham!'


The two obvious questions that pertain to one or both of the above answers, is a. there is nothing in the account of the Spies to suggest that the land was devastated, and b. The Torah clearly indicates that were it not for the sin of the spies, they would have gone to Eretz Yisrael in the second year, immediately after leaving Har Sinai? The Riva's third answer, that of Rashi, dispels both questions. Rashi in Parshas Beha'aloscho, explains that when Yisrael left Har Sinai, it was with the intention of going straight to Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, they would have arrived there within three days, had they not sinned by the 'Mis'onenim' (the Grumblers). That is not to say, the Riva explains quoting the Chizkuni, that this was the sin on which the decree was issued to die in the desert; but rather that one sin led to another, until they sent the Spies, which, as we know, resulted in the forty years that they had to spend in the Desert.

* * *


"And the B'nei Yisrael went out in triumph (be'yad romoh)" (14:8).

The words "be'yad romoh" also appear in Parshas Mas'ei - "On the day after [the Korban] Pesach, B'nei Yisrael went out in triumph (be'yad romoh)" and in Parshas Sh'lach-L'cha (in connection with someone who worships Avodah-Zarah) "And the person who acts highhandedly (be'yad romoh)". This hints at the image of Michah (Pesel Michah), which accompanied them when they left Egypt and when they crossed the Yam-Suf, (See also comment on Pasuk 29).


"Why (Mah) do you cry out to Me? Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and let them travel!" (14:15).

The 'Mem' in the word "Mah" represents the forty days that Moshe Davened for K'lal Yisrael following the sin of the Golden Calf; and the 'Hey', the five words that he Davened on behalf of his sister, when she contracted Tzara'as.

The Pasuk is hinting here that there are times that one needs to Daven long, and there are times when one needs to Daven short. Now however, was the time, not for Davenning, but for action. What was needed now was a leap of faith, an act of Mesiras Nefesh. So 'let them travel!'


"And they (the Egyptians and Yisrael) did not approach each other (zeh el zeh) the whole night" (14:20).

The term "Zeh el zeh" also appears in Yeshayah (regarding the angels, which we recite in Kedushah) "And they call out to each other (Kodosh!)".

The Ba'al ha'Turim connects this with the Medrash, which describes how G-d ordered the angels to desist from singing Kedushah that night, because it was not proper to sing Shirah whilst His creations were drowning.


"And He led them (the Egyptians) with difficulty (bi'Cheveidus)" (14:25).

This was Midah ke'Neged Midah (measure for measure), for Par'oh's having said (at the end of Sh'mos) "Let the work be heavier (Tichbad ho'avodah) on the men".


"And the water was for them a wall on their right and on their left (chomoh mi'yeminon u'mi'semolom)" (14:29).

The word "chomoh", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is missing a 'Vav' (to read 'cheimah' - anger). G-d was angry with Yisrael, because of Pesel Michah, that accompanied them through the desert.

This is hinted in the Pasuk in Tehilim "And the rival crossed the (Reed) Sea [ve'OvaR ba'yaM tzoroH), whose last letters spell 'romoh' (See above 14:8), which shares the same Gematriyah as 'Pesel Michah'.

Interestingly, the Gemara in Pesachim (117a) cites a Machlokes between Rebbi Yossi and his colleagues, as to whether Moshe and Yisrael initiated Hallel when they were saved at the Yam-Suf (Rebbi Yossi) or David ha'Melech was the one to first recite it. The Gemara there cites two reasons in support of the opinion of Rebbi Yossi. One of those reasons is 'How could David recite Tehilim whilst the image of Michah 'caused weeping'?

The Maharsha explains that in spite of what we just wrote, this question does not pertain to the era of Moshe, since the image at that time was still secret, and the people were unaware of it.

* * *

(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 471:
Not to Eat Sheretz ha'Of (Winged Rodents) (cont.)

The author already discussed reasons for all Mitzvos connected with all prohibitions that concern eating in Parshas Mishpatim (in the Mitzvah of 'Not Eating T'reifah').

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are to be found in Maseches Chulin.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it and eats a k'Zayis of winged rodents (or of a single winged rodent), or if he eats a complete winged rodent (a Biryah), even if it is only the size of a lentil, is subject to Malkos. The author has already discussed the severity of the Isur of eating rodents and of a 'Biryah' in Parshas Shemini (which is its main location).

Mitzvah 472:
Not to Eat Neveilah (Meat of an animal that Died without Shechitah)

It is forbidden to eat meat from an animal, a Chayah, or a bird that died by itself (i.e. without being Shechted). The Torah writes about this in Re'ei (14:20) "Do not eat any Neveilah. Give it to the stranger (a ger toshav) within your gates, and he will eat it; or sell it to a gentile". The author already explained above in the Mitzvah of Shechitah (Mitzvah 451) the principle stated by Chazal that any animal that became Pasul on account of the Shechitah also falls under the heading of 'Neveilah'. And the issue of Tum'as Neveilah he also discussed in Parshas Shemini (in Mitzvah 161).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara says in Avodah-Zarah (67) that it is only called 'Neveilah' if is fit to be eaten by a Ger. Neveilah that has gone bad to the extent that a Ger can no longer eat it, is not called Neveilah and one is not Chayav for eating it. Indeed, that is why the Torah inserted the phrase "You shall give it to a Ger". Otherwise, why would the Torah find it necessary to instruct us as to whom to give our things? Nor can we say that the Torah is coming to teach us that Neveilah is Mutar be'hana'ah (permitted to benefit from), since we already know that from the Pasuk in Tzav (7:24) " ... the Cheilev of Neveilah and the cheilev of t'reifah may be used for any kind of work ... ". It is from the above concession that the Chachamim derive that 'Nosein ta'am li'f'gam' (anything which gives off a bad taste) is permitted, seeing as the Torah only forbids what is fit for human consumption, but not things that people find abhorrent, which it considers as if it was mere dust. That is why the Gemara there permits a bean-stew into which vinegar of Isur has fallen (since vinegar spoils a bean-stew). And it is for the same reason that we permit Kashering in boiling water, vessels that have not been used for twenty-four hours, even though the water is less than sixty times the volume of the vessel, and even though it then re-absorbs the water containing the Isur. This is because whatever a vessel exudes after twenty-four hours simply spoils the food that absorbs it. This gives it the same status as a putrid Neveilah, which the Torah has permitted, as we explained. And by the same token, the vessel does not become forbidden, even though it subsequently re-absorbs the Isur that it just exuded. Perhaps you will ask, how one can possibly permit eating Neveilah that has gone bad? Why is it not forbidden because of 'bal Teshaktzu' (the prohibition of eating something that is disgusting)?

The answer is that whatever is such a small amount, and moreover, it became absorbed in the vessel, where it was rendered inedible and weak, is certainly not subject to 'bal Teshaktzu' and is permitted outright.

(to be cont.)

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