subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues



Ch. 14, v. 5: "Va'yugad l'melech Mitzrayim ki vorach ho'om" - VORACH, spelled Veis-Reish-Ches has the numerical value of 210. Paroh was advised that the nation left after only residing in Egypt 210 years, and not 400 years, as was prophesied to Avrohom (Breishis 15:13). He therefore took chase. As well he was told that HO'OM, the lower level of the nation, the "eirev rav," ran away with the bnei Yisroel, and he therefore took chase. (Nachal K'dumim)

Ch. 14, v. 6: "V'es amo lokach imo" - How many people did he bring along? The Rokei'ach says that he took along 900,000,000 people. This number can be explained with the opinion in the Medrash Tanchuma on our parshas chapter 1 that "vachamushim olu vnei Yisroel mei'eretz Mitzroyim" (13:18) means one out of 500. If Paroh was not aware of the death of 499 out of 500 people, he thought that there were 300,000,000 bnei Yisroel who left. If we explain that "v'sholishim al kulo" (14:7) means that he sent three men after each of the bnei Yisroel, when we triple the number 300,000,000 we arrive at the 900,000,000 people mentioned by the Rokei'ach.

Ch. 14, v.16: "Ho'reim es matcho u'n'tei es yodcho al ha'yom" - The verse does not say "ho'reim es matcho u'n'teihu al ha'yom," which would seem to indicate that Moshe was commanded to stretch out his hand over the body of water while holding the staff. As mentioned in Sedrah Selections 5759 there are different opinions on this, with some commentators saying that Moshe split the sea with the use of the staff, while others say that he did not use the staff.

1) Targum Yonoson ben Uziel (2:21, 14,21) says that he did use the staff.

2) Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chapter 42 says that he attempted to split the sea with the staff, but failed. He split it by raising only his hand when the Divine Presence appeared. The Rosh, in the name of his father Rabbi Yechiel of Paris, agrees with the Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer and brings a Medrash Shochar Tov's parable to prove this. He adds that "ho'reim" does not mean "elevate - lift up" but rather "separate - put down."

3) Medrash Shochar Tov on T'hilim 106 and 114 brings both opinions.

4) M.R. 21:9 says that the staff was not used.

5) Rashbam says that the command to lift the staff was to do so eastwardly to activate a powerful wind and the command to stretch his hand was to do so over the Yam Suf to have it split.

6) The Haa'meik Dovor says that Hashem told Moshe to use the staff and to also use his hand only. The intention of doing both these actions was to initiate both a miracle that is openly above the rules of nature, and that is done with the use of the miraculous staff, and a miracle that is hidden within the rules of nature, and that is done without the use of the staff. Whether Hashem would wrought an overt or covert miracle depended upon the reaction of the bnei Yisroel when push came to shove at the brink of the Yam Suf. If they would just wait there, hoping for Hashem's salvation, He would respond with a covert miracle, having the east wind blow so strongly that it would stop the flow of the Yam Suf and create a path in it for the bnei Yisroel to cross. If they would jump into the Yam Suf, relying on a miracle, Hashem would respond in kind, by overtly miraculously splitting the Yam Suf. Indeed a path was beginning to be formed in the Yam Suf by the driving wind, as mentioned in verse 21, "Va'yolech Hashem es ha'yom b'ruach kodim azoh kol halayloh va'yo'sem es ha'yom lechorovoh," - Hashem guided the Yam Suf with a powerful eastern wind all night and the Yam Suf began to dry, until Nachshon ben Aminodov jumped in and the water totally split in a flash, as the verse ends "va'yiboku hamayim." This is somewhat similar to the Rashbam in that there was an act to initiate the east wind to blow and another act to initiate the splitting of the Yam Suf. However, the Rashbam says the opposite of the Haa'meik Dovor, that the blowing of the wind was initiated with the staff, while the stretching of his hand over the Yam Suf to make it split was done without the staff.

With this concept of the Haa'meik Dovor a new insight can be given in parshas Vo'eiro 9:22. It was mentioned in the name of the Shem miShmuel that the plague of hail, which entailed fire inside the balls of hail, having them make peace to do Hashem's bidding, required a power higher than the heavens, hence "n'tei es yodcho AL hashomayim," ABOVE the heavens. This means that although fire and water always oppose each other, water extinguishes fire and fire evaporates water, but to fulfill the wish of Hashem they made peace and coexisted during this plague. For this supernatural relationship to take place a power of coexistence between water and fire had to be drawn from a very lofty heavenly sphere above the point where water and fire could no longer coexist. This explains why we find that Hashem only told Moshe to stretch his hand to initiate the plague of hail, "n'tei es yodcho al hashomayim" (9:22), and yet we find that Moshe did so with the use of the staff, as mentioned in the next verse, "Va'yeit Moshe es MA'TEIHU al hashomayim." Since Moshe realized that this plague entailed an overt miracle the use of the staff was in place.

It seems that with the insight of Haa'meik Dovor an answer can be given to the well known question of the difference in terminology found in the Torah for the splitting of the Yam Suf 14:16, "U'V'KO'EIHU" and 14:21, "VAYIBOKU hamayim," and the term used by Chazal of KRIAS Yam Suf. The gemara Brochos 6a says that the text in our tefillin give praise to Hashem, while the text in Hashem's tefillin praise the bnei Yisroel, as they contain the verse "Umi k'amcho Yisroel goy echod bo'oretz" (Shmuel 2:7:23, Divrei Hayomim 1:17:21). The Kedushas Levi similarly explains that we call the Yom Tov Pesach to show our appreciation of Hashem Who jumped (had mercy) over the homes of the bnei Yisroel when He smote the Egyptian firstborn. Hashem, in turn, calls the Yom Tov "Chag Hamatzos" (Shmos 23:15), extolling the praises of the bnei Yisroel by stressing that they left Egypt with only matzos as their provisions, totally trusting in Hashem.

As mentioned earlier, if the bnei Yisroel would not have shown that they believed in Hashem's miracles to save them, He still would have saved them with the covert miracle of the wind cutting a path in the Yam Suf. This would happen by stopping the flow of the water a bit at a time, slowly creating a path in the Yam Suf, as mentioned in verse 21.

We can explain the difference between the terms B'KIA and KRIA as follows. B'KIA means a total splitting of something in one go, as we find the term "shemo yiboka hanode" (gemara Eiruvin 37b), meaning perhaps the keg will burst, which takes place in a moment. KRIA means ripping. Although one can rip something in a moment, the action of ripping is actually a bit by bit process, as continued pressure is exerted throughout the process. Going with the maxim that Hashem praises us for our actions and we praise Him for His, the Torah calls the splitting of the Yam Suf B'KIA, as this refers to the total sundering of the body of water in two in a split moment by Hashem, a measure for measure response to our high level of belief in Him to even bring about an overt miracle for our benefit. Thus with the use of the word form B'KIA great praise is conferred upon the bnei Yisroel. We, on the other hand, want to praise Hashem and call the splitting of the Yam Suf KRIA, as this refers to Hashem's readiness to save us by having the powerful east wind clear a path for us in the Yam Suf, a bit by bit process similar to ripping. This choice of terminology confers a great praise upon Hashem indicating that He would have saved us even if we did not have the high level of trust in Him to wrought an overt miracle.

Ch. 14, v. 21: "B'ruach kodim azoh kol halayloh va'yo'sem es hayom lechorovoh va'yiboku hamayim" - On the last two words of this verse Rashi (M.R. 21:6) comments that this means that not only did the Yam Suf split, but also all the waters in the world split. This served the purpose of advertising world wide the miracle of the splitting of the Yam Suf. Perhaps this is derived from the verse earlier stating that a powerful east wind dried the Yam Suf and the added words "va'yiboku hamayim" indicate that there was a further splitting of water world wide. As mentioned earlier in 14:16 in the name of the Haa'meik Dovor, Moshe enacted two happenings, a miracle that was covert, the drying of the Yam Suf through the east wind, and the overt miracle of the splitting of the Yam Suf. Perhaps included in this overt miracle was the world wide effect.

Ch. 15, v. 2: "Zeh Keili v'anveihu" - The gemara Shabbos 133b derives from these words that when one fulfills a mitzvoh he should do so in a beautiful manner, i.e. have a Torah written by a holy scribe who writes neatly on clean parchment, and then have the Torah scroll wrapped in beautiful coverings. This is called "hidur mitzvoh" and is derived from the word "v'anveihu," which has the source word form "noy," meaning beautiful. Why is the source for this concept placed in this verse? Perhaps this can be explained with the words of the Mechilta on our parsha #4, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chapter 42, and Pirkei Ovos 5:4. They state that ten miracles took place for the bnei Yisroel at the splitting of the Yam Suf. Among them are miracles that were totally not necessary for saving the bnei Yisroel from the charging Egyptians. They include that the river basin was dry, tiled, and that there was a canopy above them as they crossed. All these things were done for their convenience only, as explained in the commentary of the Tosfos Yom Tov on Pirkei Ovos. We see from this that although Hashem could have saved the bnei Yisroel in a "no whistles and bells" manner, He nevertheless did it in a manner that was glorious and comfortable for the bnei Yisroel. What better place is there than this to point out that we should respond in kind when we fulfill mitzvos, to not just get by, but to do them in an upgraded most beautiful manner?

Ch. 15, v. 21: "Vataan lo'hem Miriam 'Shiru laShem ki go'o go'oh sus v'rochvo romoh va'yom'" - We find by the song of praise of the men that there was mention of being saved (verses 13,16,17,19) besides mentioning the downfall of the Egyptians. However, Miriam only mentioned the downfall of the Egyptians in her song of praise and no mention is made of the women being saved. This is explained by the Tiferes Y'honoson.

1) The gemara Gitin 38a says that the animals belonging to the bnei Yisroel are more beloved to idol worshippers than their own wives. If so, the wives of the bnei Yisroel are surely dear to them. Thus even if the bnei Yisroel would have ch"v been attacked, the women would have been saved.

2) We find in Shmos 1:22 that Paroh decreed that only the male newborns be drowned since his wise men foretold that the saviour of the bnei Yisroel would meet his end through water. The women were thus foretold that they would not meet their end through water, and felt assured that they would not drown upon entering the Yam.

3) The gemara Sotoh 11b says that in the merit of the righteous women were the bnei Yisroel redeemed from Egypt. They realized that they had a greater merit than the men had and were in less danger of being destroyed by either the Egyptians or the Yam.

Ch. 17, v. 8: "Va'yovo Amoleik" - The Hadar Z'keinim explains why Amoleik came to attack the bnei Yisroel shortly after the splitting of the sea. He relates the following story. Timna saw Elifaz armed to the teeth with weapons. She asked him where he was going. He responded that his father Eisov asked him to kill Uncle Yaakov. She said to Elifaz that there is obviously nothing more enjoyable for Eisov to do than to kill Yaakov himself. Why would he give "shishi" away to his son? It is clear that he is afraid of Yaakov, and it is very realistic that Yaakov would kill Eisov. She therefore suggested that he not pursue this idea, and indeed when he met Yaakov, he was placated with taking away Yaakov's possessions. A short while later Timna saw her son Amoleik similarly armed. The same conversation ensued. However, in response to his mother's remark about likely being killed by Yaakov, he said that he was willing to chance it, even at the risk of his own life. Timna said that it is known that it is the destiny of the descendants of Avrohom to go to Egypt and endure enslavement for many generations. If Yaakov is left alive, his descendants will fill this role. If Yaakov is killed then Elifaz and his children will have inherited this responsibility. This argument was successful in dissuading Amoleik from his plan. Now that the bnei Yisroel had completed their exodus from Egypt, Amoleik was ready to attempt to ch"v eradicate the bnei Yisroel, hence "va'yovo Amoleik" right after krias Yam Suf.

Ch. 17, v. 9: "B'char lonu anoshim" - The Chizkuni says that CHOOSING of specific people was required because Amo'leik would use magical powers to fight the bnei Yisroel. To counter this Moshe told Yehoshua to specifically pick soldiers who were born in the month of Ador Hasheini upon whom magic has no effect.

Ch. 17, v. 10: "Va'yaas Yehoshua kaasher omar lo Moshe l'hilocheim baAmo'leik" - In the merit of Yehoshua beginning the fight against Amo'leik he is mentioned regarding the reading of Megilas Esther when the Mishneh (Megiloh 2a) mentions that the Megiloh is read on the 15th of Ador in communities that are or were fortified with encircling walls that were standing at the time Yehoshua lead the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. (Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenuroh)

Ch. 17, v. 13: "Va'yachlosh Yehoshua es Amo'leik v'es AMO" - How many were the AMO? The Medrash Abbo Gurion chapter 3 says that they were 4,000 people. Seder Ha'yom says that they numbered 1,080,000,000.


1) In parshas Shmos of this year I wrote on 2:21 that according to the words of the Holy Zohar that Bisyoh was an orphan raised by Paroh, we can say that the proof that one who raises an orphan in his home is considered as if he gave birth to that child, is not from the verse stating that Yered, Avi G'dor, Chever, Avi Socho, Y'kusiel, Avi Zonoach (all A.K.A. Moshe) was the son of Bisyoh, but rather from the verse stating that Bisyoh was the daughter of Paroh, as she was really an orphan who was raised by Paroh. Although this is not contrary to the words of the gemara Sanhedrin 19b, but the gemara Megiloh 13a mentions the same concept, brings the same verse as a proof, and clearly states that the proof is from Moshe the son of Bisyoh, thus refuting the insight I offered.

2) In the offering in parshas Bo on 12:40 it should say "The numerical value of the letters of the names Avrohom and Yaakov equal 430," and not "Avrohom and Yitzchok."



Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel