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

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Vol. 13   No. 16

This issue is sponsored le'iluy Nishmos
R. Chayim Meir Goldstein z.l.
R. Menachem Mendel Litvin z.l.

Parshas Beshalach

Two Major Questions
(Part 2)

What Happened to the Three Days?

The second major question asked in connection with Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is what happened to the three days journey into the desert, and Moshe's promise to return to Egypt?

This question too, we dealt with in vol. 7, where we explained that the same G'ro that we cited last week (to explain how Yisrael could borrow the Egyptians' belongings without returning them), resolves this question too. Here too, we explained, G-d was merely giving Paroh a taste of his own medicine (trickery for trickery). Here too however, the question that we posed last week (how G-d could possibly employ such devious means to achieve His will) needs to be addressed. And the answer that we gave there will not apply here, since, by the time the Egyptians were drowned in the Yam-Suf, the three days had long passed and Yisrael had not showed any signs of returning. So the delay needs to be justified.


In Parshas Sh'mos (4:23), Moshe received instructions to warn Paroh that if he failed to let Yisrael go (for three days, though this is not mentioned there), then G-d would kill 'his' firstborn sons. Nothing is said there about blood, frogs or lice ... . The only plague that Moshe alluded to was Makas Bechoros. This is a clear indication that Makas Bechoros, unlike all the other plagues (which served as warnings), came purely as a punishment. This explains why Paroh received no warning prior to Makas Bechoros (see chapter 11 Pesukim 4-8), despite the fact that he had not been warned before the previous plague ('darkness') either, and generally, the plague that followed the one without warning, was the first of a new set, which did require warning. Incidentally, this will also explain why in the Si'man 'D'tzach, Adash, be'Achav', the last 'Beis, signifying Makas Bechoros is added to the third group, and is not cited independently as a fourth group on its own. It does not form a group on its own, as the sequence would demand, because, as we explained, it was not the first plague in a new group. It was the punishment that brought the plagues to a close, and as such, it required no warning of its own. In any event, it seems perfectly feasible to suggest that, granted, Moshe's initial request to Paroh was to grant Yisrael three days' leave. Only G-d now informed Paroh that if he did not comply with His request, then He would punish him by killing his firstborn. Following that, his permission was no longer required. Once it reached that stage, the initial condition would be rescinded, and G-d would take His people out of Egypt Himself, not for three days, but for good. This did not need to be explicitly stated, but it was self-understood.


On the Pasuk "And it was told to the King of Egypt that the people had fled" (14:5), Rashi explains that Paroh had sent agents with Yisrael when they left Egypt to ensure that they returned after three days, in keeping with their initial undertaking. And when they made no effort to do so, it was those agents who informed him that they had fled, only they were trapped in the Desert by Ba'al Tz'fon. Furthermore, in Parshas Bo (12:31), when Paroh told Moshe to go and serve their G-d, he added the words 'like you said', which the Ib'n Ezra interprets with reference to the three days that Moshe had asked for, and which Paroh was now granting.

All of this, you may ask, indicates that the initial condition was still in force at the time that they left Egypt. The answer is that it may well have been wishful thinking on the part of Paroh, who did not realize that at this stage, the initial conditions were no longer applicable, and that his permission was no longer needed, since G-d was now taking Yisrael out of Egypt on His terms, as we explained.

The fact that G-d allowed Paroh to believe that the original conditions still stood, and did not inform Paroh of his mistake, was perhaps the 'Midah Keneged Midah' to which the G'ro is referring.

And this is borne out by the Pasuk "And the B'nei Yisrael went out in triumph" (14:8). This certainly does not give the impression that Yisrael were going into the Desert for just a few days. Neither does the Medrash, which explains the opening words in the Parshah to mean that Paroh accompanied Yisrael out of Egypt (for which incidentally, he was rewarded with the Mitzvah given later to Yisrael "Do not despise an Egyptian").

Moreover, the Yerushalmi, commenting on Paroh's words "Get up, go ('Tze'u') from the midst of my people", says the following 'In the past, you were servants of Paroh. From now on you are servants of Hashem. At that moment', the Gemara continues, 'they said "Praise Hashem, servants of Hashem" (servants of Hashem and not servants of Paroh)'.

Interestingly, the Mechilta itself, which teaches us about the agents that Paroh sent with Yisrael when they left, says in the same breath that the agents' challenge, as to as to why Yisrael were showing no signs of returning to Egypt, reneging on their promise to return after three days, elicited the response 'We left Egypt (permanently) with Paroh's permission, as the Pasuk says "And the B'nei Yisrael went out in triumph" '.

Apparently, Paroh himself was in two minds. On the one hand he sent Yisrael out for good, whilst on the other, he planted agents to ensure that they return after three days. Paroh it appears, was confused. Perhaps that too, was part of G-d's plan. (See also Parshah Pearls, Pearl 'Fleeing! From whom)?'

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

They Don't Know Where They're Going

"And Paroh was told that the people had fled (ki borach ho'om)" (13:5).

The definition of "borach" (as opposed to 'holach') means to run away with no particular destination in mind. And that, says R. Yosef Shaul Natanson, is precisely what G-d wanted Paroh to think. He deliberately led Yisrael aimlessly in the desert (as Rashi explains), so that Paroh would think that they had left Egypt merely in order to escape, but that they had nowhere in particular to go. It is always easier to defeat an enemy who don't know where they are going than one which is determined to reach a certain destination. Another encouraging factor to induce Paroh to attack Yisrael, in spite of all that Egypt had just suffered.


Fleeing! From Whom?


The fact that the Torah refers to Yisrael as 'fleeing', certainly indicates that G-d's original stipulation that Yisrael would only leave Egypt for three days, still remained in full force (see main article). Otherwise, from whom were they running away?

Yet this is not necessarily so. It may well be that it was Paroh who believed that to be the case, but not G-d, as we explained in the main article.

In addition, according to the K'li Yakar's interpretation of "ho'om", it was not Yisrael who fled, but the Eirev Rav (the mixed multitude who accompanied Yisrael into the Desert).

And while on the topic of three days, we asked in the main article how G-d could employ such devious methods to take Yisrael out of Egypt. The truth of the matter is that the wording of the stipulation, which refers not to going out for three days, but for a journey of three days takes the sting out of the question. No mention was ever made of returning to Egypt after three days. And we have a precedent for this in Parshas Vayeitzei (31:23), where Rashi states that 'a journey of three days' is not synonymous with 'three days'.


Plenty of Graves in Egypt

"Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us out to the desert to die?" (14:11).

Of course there were graves in Egypt, plenty of them, explains the K'sav Sofer! Have Chazal not taught us that only one fifth of the total number of Jews left Egypt, and that four fifths (three million) died and were buried in Egypt?

What Yisrael were saying, he explains, was that if the remaining fifth were destined to die anyway, then what was the point of taking them out? They may as well have died in Egypt and been buried there, together with their brothers and sisters.


The Art (and Benefits) of Silence

"Hashem will fight on your behalf and you shall be silent" (14:14).

The Yerushalmi comments on Yisrael's defeat at the hand of the P'lishtim in the days of Shaul (despite the fact that they were loyal to Torah and Mitzvos), as opposed to their victory over their enemies in the days of Achav (even though they were idolaters). And it attributes this to the fact that whereas the latter were careful not to speak Lashon-ha'Ra (nobody informed Achav of the hundred prophets hidden by Ovadyah in two separate caves), the latter were not (for Do'eg sneaked to Shaul Achimelech's innocent assistance to the fugitive David).

And that is what the Torah is hinting here, says the Kanfei Nesharim "Hashem will fight on your behalf, provided you remain silent" (refrain from speaking Lashon-ha'Ra).


A Display of Emunah


R. Moshe Cheifetz explains this Pasuk differently. According to him, it must be read as a rhetorical question - "What, will Hashem fight on your (plural) behalf and you will remain silent?"

Now is not the time for you (singular) to Daven, the Pasuk continues, but for a magnificent display of Emunah involving the whole of K'lal Yisrael. Therefore "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael, and (tell them that) they shall travel". 'Let them demonstrate their faith in Me, G-d was saying, by marching into the sea even before it has begun to split. And only then, stretch out your stick and split the Sea'.

It often happens that a task seems so formidable, that one is loathe to undertake it. Here, Hashem teaches us that even if it seems impossible, one should not be deterred from making the effort, because if it is for the sake of Hashem, then the Emunah that the undertaking entails, will often evoke a Divine response, and one will go on to achieve the impossible. The commentaries cite a precedent for this with regard to Bisyah, Paroh's daughter, who stretched out her arm to retrieve the little reed-box that held Moshe. Although the box was way beyond her reach, she had done what she could, and G-d did the rest.


Who d'You Think Created Nature?

A believer in nature once asked the Besht what was miraculous about the splitting of the Yam-Suf, seeing as it was due to split at that time anyway?

'The miracle,' replied the Besht, 'lay in the fact that G-d, who also created nature, arranged for the Sea to split naturally, at the very moment that Yisrael needed to escape from the Egyptians and the Egyptians needed to be drowned. What ingenious timing' (reminiscent, one may add, of the numerous miracle that abound throughout the Purim story)!

(From the Seifer Beis Ya'akov).


Bitterness Breeds Bitterness

"And they were unable to drink the water from Marah, because it was bitter" (15:23).

The Hebrew text for 'because it was bitter' is "ki marim heim", plural, since 'mayim' is always in the plural. Be that as it may, it is also possible to translate the Pasuk like this ... "And they were unable to drink the water from Marah, because the people were bitter". Yes. Yisrael were bitter (they had just been forced to leave much of the Egyptian spoil behind, and now they had spent three days in the desert without finding water), and since they were bitter, explains the Chidushei ha'Rim, they tasted some of their bitterness in the water that they drank.


The Troublemakers

"And the people grumbled against Moshe" (16:2).

That is what the Pasuk means according to the 'K'ri' (the way it is read - "va'yilonu" [with a 'Vav']). According to the 'K'siv' (the way it is written - "va'yalinu" [with a 'Yud]), it means 'and the people (a reference to the Eirev Rav, the mixed multitude of foreigners who joined Yisrael when they left Egypt) prevailed upon Yisrael to grumble'.

The Eirev Rav were responsible for the Chet ha'Eigel and they were the ones to complain (in Parshas Beha'aloscha) that they had no meat. And they the were the cause of the trouble here immediately after the crossing of the Yam-Suf.


A Joyous Occasion

"And it shall be (Ve'hoyoh) on the sixth day they shall prepare what they will bring" (16:5).

"Ve'hoyoh", say Chazal is an expression of joy.

If preparing for the Shabbos Queen is treated as a joyful occasion, then the chances are that Shabbos will turn out to be a joyful occasion too.

Someone who finds the preparations for Shabbos a chore, may well find that Shabbos becomes a pain (based on a Vort of the Chidushei ha'Rim).

* * *

All About the Haftarah
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Tough Like a Man

Basically, Devorah was not eligible to judge, since women are disqualified from judging. Devorah was different however, as the Pasuk describes her as "Eishes Lapidos" (Shoftim 4:4), which can be translated as a female fire-brand. Devorah, it appears, was tough as nails. She had the disposition of a man, so the Sanhedrin allowed her to judge like a man, since she knew how to handle the Resha'im just like a man (Ahavas Yonasan).


Enflaming the Hearts

She was called 'Eishes Lapidos', the Avnei Azel explains, because the fiery words of her prophesy and her Song inflamed the hearts of Yisrael (in the fear of G-d) like a fire-brand.


Two Good Reasons

The Maskil le'Eisan cites two reasons as to why Devorah was accepted as a judge:

1. Because she had the rare distinction of being a female prophetess. Therefore, she was permitted to judge as well (Tosfos, who also suggests that this was a Hora'as Sha'ah [a temporary ruling for that time only]).

2. Because at that time, Yisrael was on a very low spiritual level, and there was nobody else who was fit to judge. Better then, to have a woman judge than not to have a judge at all.

Both of these reasons are actually hinted in the Pasuk (Ibid.) "She judged Yisrael at that time".

She was special, and the times were different


You Can't Have it Both Ways

Commenting on Pasuk 5:15, the Ahavas Yonasan explains that, many years earlier, the tribe of Reuven set themselves apart from the other tribes (in order to join Korach's ranks), because they considered themselves great men, and as they themselves claimed "because the entire congregation is completely holy".

But if they were holy, then surely one would have expected them to settle in Eretz Yisrael!

Why then, did they choose to remain on the east bank of the River Yarden and not to cross into Eretz Yisrael together with the remainder of K'lal Yisrael, as Pasuk 16 indicates?

And this is what Devorah meant when she said "If Reuven separated ... because they considered themselves holy men who could reach great heights and who were profound thinkers (then) why did you sit on the other side of the border, to hear the cries of the flocks (looking for grazing-grounds)"?


The Sun in Its Greatness

Chazal teach that 'those who are shamed, but who do not shame others, who hear their disgrace but who do not disgrace others, about them the Torah says "And his loved ones are compared to the sun that goes out in its strength" '.

Our sages compare those who suffer without embarrassing others, to the sun at its zenith, because swallowing one's own pride is a good thing only when it is one's personal Kavod that is at stake. But a person who hears someone despising a fellow-Jew, and certainly when that fellow-Jew is a Talmid-Chacham, who has done nothing to deserve this, is not permitted to remain silent. On the contrary, it is a grave sin to stand idly by whilst a Talmid-Chacham is put to shame.


And it is in this regard that we can take a lesson from the sun, which, on the one hand, remained silent when the moon attempted to boost its own Kavod at his (the sun's) expense ('Two kings cannot share the same crown'). Whilst on the other, it did nothing of the sort when Korach and his rebel band got up and insulted Moshe. It immediately arose and in an act of deep zealousness, refused to shine until the sinners received their due punishment.

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