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

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Vol. 22   No. 16

This issue is sponsored
wWith wishes for a Refu'ah Sheleimah for
Chaim Yechiel ben Malka
Shmuel Yeruchim ben Baila
Yitzchak ben Chaya
Eitan ben Sara

Parshas Beshalach

The Two Groups
(Adapted from the Ramban)

" Par'oh drew near, and when Yisrael lifted their eyes and saw Egypt traveling behind them, they were extremely frightened, and the B'nei Yisrael cried out to Hashem. And they said to Moshe 'Are there no graves in Egypt, that you took us to perish in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?' " (14:10).

*

Notwithstanding Unklus, who interprets Yisrael's cries as murmurings, that they grumbled to Hashem about their bitter situation, the Ramban, who interprets their cries as genuine Tefilos, points out that it is inconceivable for the same people who prayed to Hashem in the earlier Pasuk to be the same ones who grumbled to Moshe in the latter one.

Clearly, he explains, there were two groups at the Yam-Suf - one of which turned in prayer to G-d (they adopted the strategy of their forefathers, as the Mechilta, cited by Rashi explains); the other complained to Moshe that they would have been better off had they remained in Egypt. Nor did their complaints begin here. As is evident from the following two Pesukim, they already began to grumble about entering the desert whilst still in Egypt, before being faced with the threat of the attacking Egyptian army.

And it is in connection with the latter group that the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (106:6) "And they rebelled at the Yam-Suf". This also explains why, in the first phrase, the Torah uses the word "Yisrael", a title that denotes praise, whilst later (in Pasuk 31), after describing how 'Yisrael saw the Hand of G-d', it adds that "the people (ho'om) feared Hashem", and "ho'om", as is well-known, denotes their shame. The Pasuk is therefore teaching us that, whereas the righteous among the people believed in G-d from the outset and prayed to Him, the Resha'im denounced Him and His prophet. Nevertheless, they too, ultimately feared G-d when they witnessed the miracles that He wrought.

*

In an alternative explanation, the Ramban attributes the two statements to Yisrael in general. Their faith in G-d was intact, and it was Moshe, in his capacity as G-d's prophet, whose dominance they doubted. They suspected Moshe of leading them into the desert in order to promote his own leadership. Yes, they had seen the signs and wonders that he had performed, but they attributed them to his magical prowess, just as Par'oh had originally done. Because, if, they claimed, Moshe had taken them into the desert upon G-d's instructions, why was Par'oh chasing after them?

*

Finally, the author quotes the Mechilta (that Rashi cited earlier), which attributes the two diametrically-opposite statements, not to two factions among the people, but to a change of heart. The Mechilta explains how, initially Yisrael prayed to G-d to save them. And it was only after the Yeitzer ha'Ra took hold of them that they went on to complain to Moshe, as the Torah writes. In other words, the two groups were actually one and the same. At first, they Davened to Hashem to convince Par'oh to turn back. But when they saw that this was not happening, they reverted to their old tactics of questioning Moshe, as they had done in Egypt.

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The Four Groups

Targum Yonasan, whose explanation of Pesukim 10 & 11 is identical to the first explanation of the Ramban, goes on to explain Pesukim 12 &13 in connection with four different groups: 1) Those who opted to escape via the sea; 2) Those who wanted to return to Egypt; 3) Those who chose to fight the Egyptians; and 4)Those who preferred to frighten off their pursuers by making loud noises (with their horses and weapons).

And it was as a response to these four groups that Moshe told them 1). "Do not be afraid! Stand and see the salvation of Hashem!" 2). "(Do not go back because) As you see the Egyptians today you will never see them again". 3) "(Do not fight, because) Hashem will fight on your behalf!" and 4). "Be silent (and ascribe honour and praise to your G-d and exalt Him!)".

There is no indication to suggest that the two above groups are connected. It is however possible that the second group in the latter list is synonymous with the second group in the former one.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

The Land of the P'lishtim

" G-d did not take them by way of the land of the P'lishtim because it was close, because He said 'Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt" (13:17).

According to Rashi and the I'bn Ezra, what the Pasuk is saying is that the closeness of the land of the P'lishtim was the reason that G-d took them via a more circuitous route, which would make it more difficult to return to Egypt when they encountered war.

*

The Ramban disagrees, based on the placing of the words "because He said". According to them, he argues, the Torah ought to have written "because G-d said that it was close ". The fact that it is written only afterwards, he explains, indicates that the closeness of P'leshes was in fact, a good reason to take Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael via that route. And it was only due to the battle they would have had to fight when the P'lishtim refused to let them pass through their land and challenged them, that would have encouraged them to return to Egypt, that He led them on a longer and more complicated route.

*

See also Targum Yonasan, who equates the 'war' mentioned in the Pasuk with the two hundred thousand men of Efrayim, who left Egypt thirty years earlier. They attempted to enter the Land of Cana'an via Peleshes, but were attacked and defeated by them. G-d was now 'afraid' that if Yisrael would enter Cana'an by the same route, they would take fright upon seeing their dead brothers, the B'nei Efrayim, and would promptly return to Egypt.

*

Par'oh Wouldn't have Dared

"And I will harden Par'oh's heart" (14:4).

This was necessary, the Ramban explains, because, following Makas Bechoros and Par'oh's request "And bless me too", Par'oh was petrified and was in no way inclined to chase after Yisrael, even if they fled Egypt for good. So G-d put into his head to forget about the plagues and to chase after them to return them to Egypt.

In Pasuk 17, just before the splitting of the Yam Suf, G-d again informed Moshe that He would harden the heart of the Egyptians and that they would follow Yisrael into the sea. There too, says the Ramban, when they saw the sea split before Yisrael, and Yisrael proceed to cross the dry sea-bed, a wonder the likes of which even they had never seen, they would never have dared to follow them with the intention of doing them harm - had G-d not hardened their hearts.

*

Proud over the Proud

"I will sing to Hashem for He is greater than great" (16:1).

This is roughly what the Pasuk means according to Rashi, who explains that however much one praises Hashem, it is always possible to add more.

*

The Ramban however, prefers the explanation of Unklus, who interprets the words to mean that Hashem is "Proud over those who are proud".

Hence, he concludes, the Pasuk continues "A horse and its rider He cast into the sea".

Chazal describe a horse as proud, particularly in war. The rider, who controls the horse, is prouder than the horse. Consequently, the Pasuk describes Hashem, who took the Egyptian horses together with their riders and cast them into the sea, as 'Proud over the proud ones'.

*

The Mon on Shabbos

"Whatever you want to bake, bake " (17:22).

The Ramban cites the explanations of both Rashi and of the I'bn Ezra. The latter explains that, when the people approached Moshe with the news that a double portion of Mon had fallen on Friday, he instructed them to bake or cook one half on that day, as they always did, and to set aside the second half for the next day. The second day was Shabbos, on which no Mon fell - though they had not yet been informed that it would not. And because over the past six days they had been forbidden to leave over Man from one day to the next, they were hesitant to eat what was left from Friday - until Moshe told them to. According to this explanation, it turned out that the Mon that they ate on Shabbos was not baked or cooked or made into cakes, as it was during the week.

*

The Ramban however, prefers the explanation of Rashi and Unklus, according to whom the people were instructed to prepare the double portion that fell on Friday as they always did, and to eat of it as much as they wanted, leaving whatever remained for Shabbos. And it was in connection with that remainder that they came to Moshe on Shabbos morning for instructions.

Although the Ramban does not mention it, one can assume that a miracle occurred, ensuring that irrespective of how much they ate on Friday, on Shabbos morning, when Moshe instructed them to go ahead and eat the leftovers from yesterday, they discovered that, irrespective of how much they ate yesterday, a full portion of Mon, baked, cooked or made into cakes, remained for Shabbos.

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