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

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Vol. 20   No. 15

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Beshalach

Ba'al Tz'fon
A Forbidden Landmark

(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

"Speak to the B'nei Yisrael, that they should go back and encamp in front of Pi ha'Chiros, between Migdol and the Sea, in front of Ba'al Tz'fon, opposite it, you shall encamp by the sea" (14:2)

Citing Rebbi Yehudah (ha'Chasid?) the Da'as Zekeinim asks from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (13b) which forbids using an Avodah-Zarah as a landmark, a question that the questioner leaves unanswered.

The Da'as Zekeinim himself answers that the prohibition is confined to humans, but does not extend to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu Himself.

And he cites a proof for this from the fact that G-d judges on Shabbos, on Rosh ha'Shonoh and on Yom-Kipur, even though the Halachah forbids a Beis-Din to do so.

And he supports this with a Rashi in Rosh Hashanah (30a), who writes that although the Beis-Hamikdash may not be built on Yom-Tov or at night-time, the third Beis-Hamikdash may well be built on the first night of Pesach, because it is G-d Himself who will build it, and G-d is not subject to the Mitzvos.

And another answer offered by the Da'as Zekeinim is that, even though the Torah was already written before Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu and was waiting to be given to B'nei Yisrael, since it had had not yet been given to them, it was not yet applicable. As a third answer, I would suggest that perhaps the prohibition of using an idol as a landmark is confined to where it is a Kavod for the idol, but that is not the case here, where the objective of the landmark was in order to trap its adherents and cause their downfall.

Proof of this lies in the Torah Temimah. The Torah Temimah cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin with which I began, and then cites the Mechilta, which states that the Pasuk in Mishpatim (22:13) which serves as the source of this ruling does not apply when it is detrimental to the Avodah-Zarah.


The following Medrash appears to clash with the author's first answer: When Rebbi Akiva, in answer to Turnusrufus' question as to whether G-d observes the Shabbos, replied in the affirmative, the latter asked how He could then possibly carry the winds from country to country and the clouds across the sky. To which Rebbi Akiva replied that since the entire world belongs to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, it is considered one domain, and in one domain one is permitted to carry.

From this Medrash, it is clear that Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu (Kevayachol) keeps the Shabbos, thereby creating a problem with the Da'as Zekeinim's first answer.

To answer the Kashya, the thought occurred to me, that, just as Chazal extrapolate from Pesukim that Yosef kept Shabbos in Egypt, perhaps because Shabbos (which is the major proof of the creation) is different than other Mitzvos (indeed, Chazal have said that Shabbos is compared to all the Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh). Consequently, the fact that G-d keeps Shabbos does not necessarily mean that He keeps the other Mitzvos, too.

I told this to ha'Rav ha'Ga'on, R. Katz (Rosh Yeshivah of Chevron), who corroborated this by pointing out that the Torah's first mention of Shabbos is where G-d Himself rested on Shabbos. Indeed, in the Mitzvah of Shabbos in the Aseres ha'Dibros, the Torah specifically states " therefore G-d rested on the day of Shabbos", and that is why, as the Pasuk concludes, "He blessed the day of Shabbos and sanctified it!"

Granted, the author himself based his first answer on the fact that G-d judges on Shabbos - but that is merely a Rabbinical decree. G-d may well adhere to His laws of Shabbos, as He did at the Creation, but not necessarily to the laws initiated later by the Chachamim.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

The Land of P'lishtim

" and G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the P'lishtim (P'leshes), because it was close and they will return to Egypt" (13:14).

Rebbi David, grandfather of R. Moshe, maintains that P'leshes was considered part of Eretz Yisrael, proof being that Yitzchak, who lived there for many years, never left Eretz Yisrael.

R. Moshe however, disagrees. He explains that although P'leshes itself, which the Torah calls 'the Land of the P'lishtim', can hardly be part of Eretz Yisrael. However, a strip of land jutted out from P'leshes which belonged to Eretz Yisrael, and that was where Yitzchak lived.

Another interpretation of "because it was near", the Da'as Zekeinim explains, is that it was only a short time back that the Cana'anim inherited the land. (See Rashi Lech-L'cha 12:6). Now Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu had told Avraham that the fourth generation would return to Eretz Cana'an/Yisrael, and it was because the fourth generation of Cana'anim had not yet been born, that He took them round the desert for forty years - until it arrived.

Another reason for not taking Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael by the shortest route via P'leshes, says the Da'as Zekeinim, was because G-d was afraid that Yisrael would settle down in Eretz Yisrael, each man in his field and in his vineyard, and they would be lax in their Torah-studies. So He took them through the desert for forty years, feeding them the Mon and the water of the well, which purified their bodies, making them more receptive to spirituality and words of Torah.


Yet another reason for the delay, the author attributes to the Cana'anim. When the Cana'anim heard that Yisrael had left Egypt, knowing that the conquest of their country was about to begin, they proceeded to lay the land waste, destroying all the fields together with their crops, in an effort to delay or even to prevent Yisrael from taking it over.

But G-d had promised Avraham to give his children a good land, not one that was barren and spoilt. So he waited forty years, until the Cana'anim had built up the land to its former state, before taking Yisrael there.


Walls of Water

"And the water was for them a wall (chomah)" (14:29).

The word "chomah", the Da'as Zekeinim comments, which is written without a 'Vav', can therefore be read 'Cheimah' (anger). This is because initially, the sea was angry with K'lal Yisrael (because they carried with them the image of Michah). Until the angel Gavriel came and turned the water in the middle of the sea into a wall.

Turning to the water on the right, he said 'Take care not to harm Yisrael who are destined to receive the Torah from the Right Hand of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu!' (as the Torah testifies in ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh [33:2]). To the water on the left he then announced 'Beware against causing harm to Yisrael, since they are going to wear Tefilin on their left arm!' Finally, addressing the water behind them, he declared 'Guard yourself against harming Yisrael who will wrap their Tzitzis behind them!'

The water obeyed the words of Gavriel and formed protective walls round Yisrael, dividing into twelve pathways, one path for each of the twelve tribes. Moreover, there were windows between in the dividing walls, so that they could converse with each other as they passed through, to put their minds at ease.

Hence the Torah writes "And the water was for them a wall".

It is from this Medrash, the author concludes that we learn the obligation, at least when putting on one's Arba Kanfos, to throw the Tzitzis backwards - in the way that we do.


The Power of a Little Word

"Then Moshe and the B'nei Yisrael sang " (15:1).

Said Moshe before Hakadosh-Barush-Hu 'With the word "Oz" I complained against You (as recorded at the end of last week's Parshah), and with the word "Oz" I will now praise You'.

Alternatively, the Gematriyah of "Oz" is eight, Moshe was hinting here at the Mitzvah of Milah, which takes place on the eighth day. And what he meant was that, on the merit of the Mitzvah the Sea should split. And it did.

The connection between Milah and K'ri'as Yam-Suf in turn, is hinted in the Pasuk in Tehilim, which in describing the latter, writes "le'Gozer Yam-Suf li'gezorim", and Targum translated the word in Lech-Lcha "va'momol" (in connection with Avraham Avinu's performing the Milah) as 've'gozar'.


Tzintzenes, a Jar Made of

"Take a flask (tzintzenes) and place there an Omer-full of Manna " (16:33). We do not know what the flask was made of, comments the Da'as Zekeinim, gold, silver, earthenware?

That is why the Torah refers to it as "tzintzenes' - which indicates something which peeps (from the word 'meitzitz' [remember, that 'Nun' is a letter that often falls away, as in the many derivatives of the word 'nofel' (fall)]). This is an indication that the material of which the flask was made was earthenware - through which seeds that one plants in it peep out, as they penetrate the walls and appear on the outside of the flask.

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