by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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PARSHAS B'SHALACH 5760 BS"D
Ch. 14, v. 27: "L'eisono" - In the M.R. Breishis 5:5 Rabbi Yochonon says that Hashem stipulated with the Yam Suf at the time of its creation that it should split at the time the need would arise, when the bnei Yisroel will be boxed in at its shores with the Egyptians in hot (literally) pursuit. This is indicated by the unusual word used for "its strength - l'eisono." The word "l'eisono" is phonetically similar to "lis'no'o," to its conditional agreement.
The difficulty in comprehending this medrash is obvious. Should this not have been pointed out in a verse dealing with the splitting of the Yam Suf rather than the verse dealing with the Yam Suf returning to its nature of flowing with its full strength?
To answer this another question will be posed. The gemara Chulin 7a relates that Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir was on his way to attempt to fulfill the great mitzvoh of redeeming captured people, "pidyone shvuyim." He came upon the River Gino'i and was unable to cross it. He needed to be on the other side to accomplish what he set out to do. He spoke to the river and demanded that it split for him. The river refused to cooperate, saying that if it would continue to flow it would SURELY be fulfilling the will of its Creator, as Rashi there explains that in Koheles 1:7 it says, "Kol hancholim holchim el ha'yom," all rivers must flow into the sea. However if it were to stop flowing to accommodate Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir, he is DOUBTFUL if he will be successful in freeing the captured people, thus the fulfillment of Hashem's will is not a sure thing. Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir responded that if the river would not cooperate he would pray to Hashem that the river should permanently dry up and thus cease to exist. Upon hearing this threat the river promptly split.
The splitting of this river is not recorded anywhere as being a condition set into motion at the time of its creation. (See the commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Kluger "Y'ri'ose Shlomo," printed in the Rabbi Yaakov Emdin prayer book, on the words of the Amidoh, "V'al ni'secho sheb'chol yom imonu" where he differentiates between miracles that were stipulated at the time of creation and miracles that were not.) If Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir was able to cause a river to split, Moshe could surely do the same, so why was it necessary to stipulate this at the time of the creation of the Yam Suf?
To answer this question we have to analyze the details of the above-mentioned story. Why with the demand to split did the river not cooperate and yet with the threat that Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir would pray to Hashem to have it permanently dry up did it cooperate? The answer is that the river was right in stating that it had the priority over Rabbi Pinchos because of its SURELY fulfilling the Creator's will. However, if the river would cease to exist there is no contravention of the verse in Koheles, as only a river is commanded to flow into the sea, but if there is no river existent there is no command to flow. This was the intention of Rabbi Pinchos when he threatened to cause the river to permanently dry up.
However, Moshe was unable to do the same. To ask the Yam Suf to split wouldn't work, as per the response of the River Gino'i to Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir. To threaten to have the Yam Suf totally dry up was also not an option, as Hashem had ordained that the Yam Suf continue to exist so that it may later drown the Egyptians. Only Hashem could cause the Yam Suf to split. Indeed the M.R. says that the Yam Suf did not split at the bidding of Moshe and only did so when the Divine Presence demanded that it split.
This is the intention of the M.R. in parshas Breishis. It states that HASHEM stipulated a condition with the Yam Suf. If you will ask why it is necessary to have HASHEM make this pre-condition since Moshe could have caused it to split with the threat of causing it to dry up totally, as did Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir, the answer is that Hashem also required that the Yam Suf return to its strength and flow again to drown the Egyptians. Moshe was therefore unable to cause the Yam Suf to totally dry up. To demand the Yam Suf to only split was also impossible, as it was SURELY fulfilling the will of Hashem by flowing, while Moshe taking the bnei Yisroel successfully through the Yam Suf was NOT A SURE THING. Indeed, we find that while they were in the middle of the Yam Suf an angel complained to Hashem that the bnei Yisroel and the Egyptians should be treated equally, as there were idol worshippers in both groups. (Likutei Shoshanim)
Ch. 14, v. 31: "Va'yaaminu baShem" - The Rashbam explains that "they believed in Hashem" means that they trusted that they would not die of starvation in the desert.
Ch. 15, v. 20: "Vatikach MIRIAM" - Why was she named Miriam? The Psikta Zut'r'sa 15:11 and the M.R. Shir Hashirim 2:13 say that she was born when the true affliction of servitude began, 86 years before the exodus. Regarding that period the verse says "vaymor'ru es cha'yeihem" (1:14), hence the name Miriam.
Ch. 15, v. 20: "Achose Aharon" - Why does the Torah stress Miriam's being the sister of Aharon and not the sister of Moshe as well?
1) To point out that she was a prophetess at an early age when Moshe was not yet born (See gemara Sotoh 12b), and at that time she was the sister of only Aharon.
2) Miriam was struck with tzoraas (a spiritually caused leprosy). Aharon put himself out in beseeching Moshe to have her healed (See Bmidbar 12:10 and 12:12). In this merit she was called the sister of Aharon. (Rashi in the name of the Mechilta)
3) Since Aharon was three years older than Moshe, Miriam was already called the sister of Aharon earlier and this title stayed with her. (RAVa"M) This is similar to the explanation given by the Rashbam as to why Yoseif was called the "ben z'kunim" of Yaakov and Binyomin wasn't.
4) Since the appellation "prophetess" is being used here, it is appropriate to relate Miriam to Aharon, whose level of prophecy is similar to hers as indicated in Bmidbar 12:2, "Gam bonu dibeir Hashem", and not to Moshe whose prophecy was above either of theirs. (RaVa"m)
5) Since Moshe and Miriam are mentioned in relation to the "Shiroh," the song of praise and thanks to Hashem, the verse did not want to leave out Aharon. (Ramban)
6) It is common for the Torah to relate one's relationship to the oldest son of the family, as we find in Divrei Hayomim 1:2:42, "U'v'nei Choleiv achi Y'rach'm'eil," even though he had a brother named Rom (D.H. 1:2:9) as well. (Ramban)
7) It is common for the Torah to mention the oldest brother of a woman, as we find in Breishis 36:3, "V'es Bosmas bas Yishmo'eil achose N'voyose," and in Shmos 6:23, "Elisheva bas Aminodov achose Nach'shone." (Rashbam and Rivo"sh)
8) Since both Miriam and Aharon were born to Amrom and Yocheved during their first marriage, and Moshe was born to them after they remarried (See gemara Sotoh 12b), the Torah connects Miriam to Aharon only. (Toras Shlomo)
9) Moshe was a Levite. The Levite's servitude to Hashem is marked by singing, "U'Lviim b'shirom u'v'zimrom" (Musof service of Yom Tov). Aharon was a Kohein. Kohanim's servitude to Hashem is marked by action done with a physical object, i.e. processing sacrifices, etc. Since the praise to Hashem had only taken on the form of singing, "Oz yoshir Moshe," there was no place for Aharon, the paradigm of physical servitude. Miriam wanted Aharon to have an opportunity to praise Hashem along his lines of servitude. She introduced the accompaniment of musical instruments in the praise of Hashem, thus initiating this form of praise. Therefore she is mentioned as the sister of Aharon only. (Avnei Nezer, the Holy Admor of Sochatchov)
Ch. 15, v. 20: "Chol hanoshim" - The Yalkut Mei'am Lo'eiz says that it was necessary for the women to make use of musical instruments during their singing praises to Hashem to drown out their voices, as "Kol b'ishoh ervoh" (gemara Brochos 24a and Kidushin 70a). However, the Chid"o in Nachal K'dumim disagrees and says that since there was a palpable presence of the "Sh'chinoh," the Holy Spirit of Hashem, as indicated by the words "Zeh Keili" (15:2), this was not necessary, as mentioned in the gemara Nidoh 13a , "bi'asuso d'sh'chinoh."
Ch. 15, v. 20: "B'supim u'vimcholos" - A true story is told of a time when there was a very severe draught in Eretz Yisroel. The communal heads of all the populace of all shades and persuasions called for a mass assembly for prayer to take place at the Kosel Hamaarovi. The size of the crowd was larger than anyone present could remember, matching the need for heavy precipitation. One very elderly and infirm Admor was also brought by wheelchair to join in the prayers.
After many chapters of T'hilim and other appropriate prayers were said, literally out of the clear blue sky, laden dark grey clouds appeared. It took but a few minutes and the sky blackened, and then, wonder of wonders, precious droplets of rain fell, quickly turning into a virtual flood of rain. The masses were besides themselves with happiness, no one caring that he was drenched to the bone with the life saving liquid that was more precious than gold.
There was but one person among the many thousands present who was not saturated by the rain. He was the elderly Admor. When it started raining he opened a large umbrella which he had taken along with him. Among all the thousands of people who went to pray at the Kosel Hamaarovi for rain, he was the only one who had the conviction that help was SURELY on the way, hence the necessity to bring along an umbrella.
Similarly, the Mechilta says that only the righteous women (and not the men) who left Egypt were so convinced that they would still merit future miracles, that they therefore brought along musical instruments with which to play music to complement the praises of Hashem which would be sung.
It would seem that all knew that the exodus was not truly complete upon exiting Egypt, as the Yerushalmi P'sochim 10:6 asks why no songs of thanks were sung immediately upon departure from Egypt. The Yerushalmi answers that they only sang when the redemption was complete, at the splitting of the Yam Suf. In spite of this knowledge, only the women were sufficiently motivated to bring along musical instruments.
Ch. 15, v. 20: "U'vimcholos" - Rabbi Saadioh Gaon says that a TOFE is a small drum (a timbrel) which is sounded by banging with the hands. A MOCHOL is a much larger drum that is played with the use of wooden drumsticks. The Mechilta seems to also say that these are both musical instruments, as it says, "How did they have TUPIM and M'CHOLOS in the desert?"
However the Targum Onkeles and the Targum Yonoson ben Uziel both say that M'CHOLOS are circles of people dancing. Rashi seems to go along with the Targumim, as he says that the women brought TUPIM out of Egypt. He does not mention M'CHOLOS.
Perhaps an indication that M'CHOLOS are instruments can be brought from T'hilim 150:4, "Hal'luhu b'SOF uMOCHOL." The Metzudas Dovid translates these words as, "Praise Him with a drum and dancing." However, the Yismach Moshe brings a Beis Yosef, O.CH. #422, who says in the name of the "Gaonim" that the reason for reciting Hallel every Rosh Chodesh is because we find in this chapter of T'hilim the expression "hallel" twelve times, indicating the recital of Hallel at the beginning of each of the twelve months (save Tishrei). This is the reason we double the last verse, "Kol han'shomo t'hallel," for the extra month of Adar II. The Yismach Moshe says that since Nison is the first month of the year (Shmos 12:2), the sixth month is Elul. The sixth expression of hallel in this chapter is "Hal'luhu b'seika shofar," indicating the custom to sound the shofar throughout this month.
Perhaps, just as we find the expression "hallel" twelve times (see RDa"K), there might also be twelve instruments mentioned in this chapter. This is only so if MOCHOL is counted as an instrument. For those who will actually check this out, note that a number of instruments are in the plural form, indicating a minimum of two.
Ch. 15, v. 21: "Vataan" - If we translate "Vataan" as "And she responded," we have the question - To what did Miriam respond?
1) She responded to the men's song with the repetition of one part of their song, "Shiru laShem ......" (Ramban)
2) She responded in a similar fashion. Just as Moshe said one verse of the "shiroh" at a time and the bnei Yisroel repeated each one, so also, Miriam said all the verses, a verse at a time, and the bnos Yisroel repeated them as per the gemara Sotoh 30b. (B'eir Yitzchok) The opinion of the Rivo"sh Baal Tosfos is also that the women repeated all the verses. It remains to be explained why only a part of a particular verse was mentioned in "shiras Miriam" if the complete "shiroh" was said. See later on in this verse on the words "Sus v'rochvo."
3) Miriam CAUSED a response to her first saying the verses of the "shiro," as the bnos Yisroel repeated the verses after her. (B'eir Yitzchok)
4) Perhaps an answer can be given based on the offering given above regarding the women having stronger trust in Hashem's bringing about a complete salvation after leaving Egypt. This was expressed by their bringing along musical instruments to be played at the time that thanks would be given for the salvation. Miriam responded to the manner of "shiroh" the men sang, which was without instruments, to give the "men" admonition because they didn't also bring along tupim.
The above answers are all of the opinion that "Vataan" means "And she responded" or caused a response. However, there are those who translate differently, and the question posed at the beginning does not begin.
1) "Vataan" can simply mean "And she SAID," and its use does not require a prior statement or action. We find this in Shmuel 1:18:9 and Iyove 4:1. (Lekach Tov)
2) "Vataan" can be translated as "And she said in a raised voice." (Michlole Yofi)
We find this in Dvorim 27:14, "V'ONU ha'L'viim ...... kol rom," which teaches us that "aniyoh" is done in a loud voice. As well in Dvorim 26:5 it says "V'oniso v'omarto," which Rashi explains to mean "And you should say in a loud voice."
Ch. 15, v. 21: "Lohe*M* ...... SHIRU" - The Tosfos Hasholeim asks that this verse should have said "lohe*N*" and "SHEIRNOH" since Miriam was addressing the women.
Answers: 1) Miriam spoke to the men , saying that they should sing first. (Baalei Tosfos)
2) The men had already sung their praises and now the women were about to begin. The angels complained to Hashem that they had already waited for the men to sing first, but they did not want to wait until after the women sing. Miriam responded that the angels should sing before the women sing. (Riv"o) 3) The women had greater trust in Hashem than the men had, as indicated by their bringing along musical instruments, and were more courageous than the men. Courage is a manly characteristic, so the verse expresses the women's actions in the male form. (Baalei Tosfos and the SheLo"H)
4) Miriam addressed the unborn children (See gemara Sotoh 30b) to also praise Hashem. (Baalei Tosfos)
5) As mentioned earlier, the women chastised the men for not bringing along musical instruments. Miriam said to the men, "This is how you should sing to Hashem."
Ch. 15, v. 21: "Sus v'rochvo" - If the bnos Yisroel sang the complete "shiroh," why are only these words written, and if they sang only these words, why did they sing only this excerpt of the full "shiroh?"
The Beis Yitzchok answers that we know that the goal of the exodus from Egypt was to receive the Torah, as mentioned in Shmos 3:12. Women are exempt from the mitzvoh of Torah study (gemara Sotoh 21a). However the gemara Brochos 17a and Sotoh 21a says that women have the merit of Torah study by virtue of facilitating the Torah study of their husbands and children. The proof that a facilitator has equal merit as the one who actually carries out the act is seen from the fact that the horses of Paroh's army also drown along with the riders. The horses had done nothing wrong and were only punished as facilitators. Since Hashem's measure of reward is vastly greater than of punishment, (gemara Makos 5b) the women who facilitated the exodus from Egypt, as is mentioned in the M.R. Shmos 1:16 that in the merit of the righteous women the bnei Yisroel were liberated from Egypt, would surely deserve a great reward. This is why the drowning of the horses along with their riders is specifically mentioned.
This might give us another answer to the question mentioned above about the use of the word "lohe*M* rather than "lohe*N*." Since Miriam sang the verse which indicated that the women were on an equal footing with the men, she used the word "lohe*M*" in the masculine form to indicate this.
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