Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 13, v. 18: "Vachamushim" - There are a number of translations of this word. What are they?

2) Ch. 14, v. 3: "V'omar Paroh LIVNEI Yisroel" - Rashi says REGARDING the bnei Yisroel. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says TO Doson and Avirom, who were left in Egypt. If they didn't want to leave, why didn't they die during makas choshech?

3) Ch. 14, v. 7: "Sheish mei'os rechev bochur" - Sending only 600 men to overpower the bnei Yisroel seems illogical. Paroh must have thought that Hashem was angry with them, and they therefore would be able to be overpowered by a very small group, in keeping with the verse in Dvorim 32:30, "Eichoh yirdof echod elef, u'shnayim r'vovo." If so, why wasn't it sufficient to send only 120 men, as every two could overpower 10,000?

4) Ch. 14, v. 21: "Va'yiboku" - Medrash Shocher Tov (T'hilim 114:3) on the words "ha'yom ro'oh VA'YONOSE," says that the sea should flee (split) upon seeing Yoseif's casket, since Yoseif also fled from the wife of Potifar, "VA'YONOS vayeitzei hachutzo" (Breishis 39:12). What is the connection?

5) Ch. 14, v. 27: "Va'yoshov ha'yom l'eisono" - And the sea returned to its strength - The Holy Zohar (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, that says that when the Yam Suf saw Yoseif's casket it split. How do we reconcile the Holy Zohar and the medrash?



1) ARMED for war. (Rashi, Targum Onkelos, M.R. The word indicates five weapons, as per Yechezkel 39:9.)

2) One FIFTH of the bnei Yisroel, as four fifths died during makas choshech. (Rashi, Mechilta 14)

3) One FIFTIETH. (Mechilta 14)

4) One FIVE-HUNDRETH. (Mechilta 14)

5) Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says the bnei Yisroel left with FIVE children per family. The Holy Admor of Belz explains that since four fifths of the bnei Yisroel died during makas choshech, there were orphans of four families. The survivors adopted the orphans, so each family had FIVE families of children, its own, plus those of four other families.

6) PREPARED with FOOD, as in Breishis 41:34, "v'chimeish es artzo." (Chizkuni)

7) Grouped into FIVE CAMPS. Degel macha'neh Yehudoh in the east, Reuvein in the south, Efrayim in the west, and Dan in the north, as enumerated in Bmidbar ch.2. The fifth camp is macha'neh Levi which was situated in the centre. (Trumas Ha'deshen)

8) Another possible interpretation: The bnei Yisroel were one FIFTH of those who left. The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says in 12:38 that 2,400,000 "eirev rav" left with the bnei Yisroel. This makes a total of 3,000,000, of whom the bnei Yisroel were one fifth. (Nirreh li)

9) Preparing for the acceptance of the "chamishoh chumshei Torah." (Yalkut Dovid)

10) They left fifty years early. (M'galeh Amukos)


The Eidus BI'hosef says that only those who knew that a permanent departure was planned, and still didn't want to leave, deserved to die. Since Doson and Avirom were confirmed informants to Paroh, they were not advised of the true plan, but were told that the bnei Yisroel would only be travelling for three days. Being unwilling to go for three days did not deserve death.


1) Paroh did not know that four-fifths of the bnei Yisroel died in makas choshech. He thought there were 3,000,000. That number requires 600 men. (Rabbi Chaim Rappaport)

2) The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel in 12:38 says that 2,400,000 "eirev rav" joined the bnei Yisroel. Paroh sent enough men to overpower the whole group. (Nirreh li)

3) Two only overpower 10,000 when the two are united. Rashi says on "Mitzrayim NO'SEI'A" (14:10), "b'leiv echod k'ish echod." This does not mean united (Avnei Neizer). By Matan Torah Rashi says on "Va'yichan Yisroel" (19:2), "k'ish echod b'leiv echod," with the order switched. This means united. (Bl"n the difference will be explained in parshas Yisro.) Once the Egyptians were not united, only the section of the verse, "yirdof echod elef" applies. When the pursuers are "shnayim," two who are united, they can pursue 10,000. When they are "echod," individual, each can only pursue 1,000. Therefore 600 men were required for 600,000 of the bnei Yisroel.


The K'sav Sofer explains this. The Ibn Ezra asks: Why was a miracle necessary? Why not have the bnei Yisroel battle with the oncoming Egyptians? The Ksav Sofer says that this would have entailed standing up against the Egyptians with physical force. Although the Egyptians deserved no mercy, nonetheless there is a certain appreciation the bnei Yisroel should have, as the Egyptians were their hosts for many years. The Torah says, (Dvorim 23:8) "Do not hate an Egyptian, since you were a sojourner in his land." Only if the bnei Yisroel had the characteristic of being grateful to their host, would Hashem be willing to perform the miracle of splitting the sea, rather than subjecting them to do war with their former host.

This was demonstrated by Yoseif. When he ran away from the enticements of Poti Phera's wife, she grabbed his garment from him (Breishis 39:12). Logically, he should have turned around and forcefully taken it back, so that she should have no incriminating evidence against him. (This question is raised by the Ramban). The Ksav Sofer answers with the above concept. Yoseif did not want to turn against his hostess with physical force, even at the cost of leaving incriminating evidence in her hands. This act implanted this positive characteristic into future generations of bnei Yisroel. When the "yam suf" saw the casket which held Yoseif, the person who demonstrated and implanted the middoh of "hakoras tovah," gratefulness, into the bnei Yisroel, it was willing to cooperate, even against its nature, and split. This avoided having the bnei Yisroel engage in combat with their former hosts, thus enabling them to show their gratefulness.

The Ksav Sofer says that now we have an understanding of the Rashi at the beginning of parshas Yisro (18:1). On the words "Va'yishma Yisro," Rashi (gemara Z'vochim 116a) says that Yisro heard about the splitting of "yam suf" and the war with Amoleik. It is obvious that Yisro heard all that had happened. If so, why point out only these two happenings? The Ksav Sofer answers: Yisro was reluctant to come to the bnei Yisroel as he had been a priest for idol worship in Midyon. He thought that he might be rejected. However, upon seeing a diplay of gratefulness on the part of the bnei Yisroel, he knew he would not be rejected, as he had given Moshe refuge at the time of his need. Upon hearing of the splitting of the sea he wondered why a miracle was necessary and came to the same conclusion as above, that the bnei Yisroel did not want to forcefully stand up against their former hosts. This could indicate their gratefulness, although not conclusively. Perhaps they were unable to wage war. (Indeed this is the answer given by the Ibn Ezra.) When he also heard that they had successfully battled against the powerful Amoleik nation, he knew that they were capable of waging war, and the only reason the sea split was because the bnei Yisroel were imbued with the middoh of "hakoras tovoh." If so, they would not reject him either, and therefore he came to the bnei Yisroel.


Note that Avrohom's merit is mentioned regarding the sea returning to its strength, "l'eisono," i.e. that it flowed again and drown 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 was 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, the plagues that visited Paroh when he took Soroh. See a most powerful essay on this point in Haa'meik Dovor and Marchiv Dovor on Breishis 12:17 d.h. "al dvar Sorai eishes Avrom."



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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