CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS B'SHALACH 5767 - BS"D
1) Ch. 14, v. 6: "V'es amo lokach imo" - How many people did he bring along?
2) Ch. 14, v. 27: "Va'yoshov ha'yom …… l'eisono" - And the sea returned …… to its strength - The Holy Zohar on Shmos page 301 writes that in the merit of Avrohom, who is called "Eison hoEzrochi" (M'lochim 1:5:11) the bnei Yisroel were saved from the clutches of the Egyptians. We are all well aware of the Medrash Shochar Tov on T'hilim 114, who says that when the Yam Suf saw Yoseif's casket it split. Does the Holy Zohar disagree with the medrash?
3) 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?
4) 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. Why?
5) Ch. 17, v. 9: "B'char lonu anoshim" - Rashi says that Moshe commanded Yehoshua to draft men who are both physically strong and also sin fearing. How was Yehoshua to know who was truly righteous? Also, since Moshe planned to raise his hands during the war, and as explained by the gemara R.H. 29a, this would spur on the people to think of Hashem and subjugate their will to Him, and this would bring them victory, what need is there for physically strong men, as the approach to victory was a spiritual one?
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.
Note that Avrohom's merit is mentioned regarding the sea returning to its strength, "l'eisono," i.e. that it flowed again and drowned the Egyptians. The Holy Zohar says that in Avrohom's merit the bnei Yisroel were SAVED. Even with the splitting of Yam Suf, had the Egyptians not drowned they would have captured the bnei Yisroel. Thus the bnei Yisroel were saved in the merit of Avrohom. The merit of Yoseif only brought about that Yam Suf split in the first place.
Perhaps each one's merit is in keeping with what he had done during his lifetime. Yoseif was not of the nature of bringing about the downfall of anyone. To the contrary, he was the provider of food during a devastating famine, "hu hamashbir" (Breishis 42:6), even for the Egyptians. On the other hand, Avrohom throughout his life vanquished enemies, for example the war of the 5 kings against the 4, and the plagues that visited Paroh when he took Soroh. See a most powerful essay on this point in Haa'meik Dovor and Harcheiv Dovor on Breishis 12:17 d.h. "al dvar Sorai eishes Avrom."
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?
This is explained by the Tiferes Y'honoson in three ways:
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.
The Har Zvi says that these two questions resolve each other. The gemara Yoma 75a says that the manna fell at the doorstep of the righteous, and further and further away for those who were less and less righteous. This could serve Yehoshua as substantiation for who was righteous. However, the gemara also says that those who were infirm would also receive their portion of manna at their doorstep to alleviate the problem of an invalid having to fetch his manna from a distance. If so, Yehoshua would be unable to verify their righteousness. People who were both physically strong and received their manna at their doorstep were surely righteous. This why Moshe told Yehoshua to enlist only those who were both strong and righteous.
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