4 Divrei Torah Related to Krias Yam Suf and Last Days of Pesach
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March 31, 2021 7:09 pm at 7:09 pm #1961610abukspanParticipant
Related to Krias Yam Suf and Last Days of Pesach
1. The Art of Prayer:
ופרעה הקריב וישאו בני ישראל את עיניהם והנה מצרים נסע אחריהם וייראו מאד ויצעקו בני ישראל אל ה’
Pharaoh drew near, and the Children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! Egypt was traveling after them. They were very frightened, and the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem (Shemos 14:10).
Based on the word “Vayitzaku – And they cried out,” Rashi explains that the Jews seized the art of their ancestors and davened to Hashem. He then brings proofs from the verses about Avraham (Bereishis 19:27), Yitzchak (ibid. 24:63), and Yaakov (ibid. 28:11) that our Patriarchs also prayed.
We are all familiar with emotions that evoke a cry of prayer. When confronted by tragedy or great need, we turn to Hashem in desperation. Sitting in a waiting room outside an intensive care unit, one sees firsthand the truth in the maxim: There is no atheist in a foxhole. The prayers said at these stressful times flow easily, from deep within the heart.
But what of the prayers on an ordinary day, with the dogs at bay and the waters still? What posture and attitude do we need to take then?
We are faced with another question. Why does Rashi need to tell us that the Jews followed the practice of their forefathers? Is something gained by this comparison?
Rav Yerucham Levovitz (Daas Torah on Beshalach) suggests that this comparison teaches us something both fundamental and critical about the nature of our tefillos.
The first pasuk (Bereishis 19:27) brought in Rashi describes the day after Avraham’s heartfelt petition on behalf of Sodom. After his petition was declined, Avraham went back the next day to pray at the same place. This is proof, writes Rashi, that Avraham had a practice to pray. But it was not for anything special.
The second pasuk (ibid. 24:63) finds Yitzchak going out in the late afternoon to pray in the field. Again, there was no special motivating event prompting his prayer; it was just his practice.
The third pasuk (ibid. 28:11) describes Yaakov praying while on the way to his uncle Lavan. Rashi tells us (V. 17) that Yaakov could not allow himself to pass the site of the future holy Temple without praying: “After all, my forebears prayed at that site.” Here, too, this was not at a time of despair.
None of their prayers were prompted by an impending crisis or threat, but tefillah comprised their daily routine. In fact, the Gemara (Berachos 26b) cites these pesukim as the source of our Patriarchs’ institution of daily prayer.
How can their prayers be compared with that of the Bnei Yisrael, who were surrounded in every direction – with a merciless desert on two sides, the sea in the front, and the point of a spear to the rear – and had no choice but to cry out to Hashem? In what sense can we say that they seized the art of their ancestors?
What we must say, writes Rav Yerucham, is that the Avos had the same desperation in their daily prayers as Bnei Yisrael had in their outcry for mercy and compassion at the edge of the Yam Suf.
At that time, we understood that our lives were on the line, and there was nowhere else to turn; that is the way the Avos lived every day. For them, prayer – with the greatest kavanah – was not just another mitzvah that had to be done; it was a lifesaving act. Even without any specific threat, we must beseech Him for our very existence.
This is the lesson of Rashi. Our challenge is to see this truth, for then we can follow in the ways of our Patriarchs.
2. Order of Operations: Cute Pshat in Az Yashir –though with no real lesson
אמר אויב ארדף אשיג אחלק שלל תמלאמו נפשי אריק חרבי תורישמו ידי
The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the booty; my desire will be filled from them; I will draw my sword, my hand will impoverish them” (Shemos 15:9).
This pasuk in Az Yashir quotes Pharaoh as he rallied his troops to chase after Bnei Yisrael. In the sefer Kehillas Yitzchak (Beshalach, p. 68), Rav Yitzchak Reitbard points out that the sequence in the pasuk does not seem to be correct.
After the enemy said, “Erdof asig – I will pursue, I will overtake,” we would not expect him to say, “Achaleik shallal – I will divide the booty.” How can the spoils of war be taken before the actual fighting?
Next, he said, “Timla’eimo nafshi – My desire will be filled from them.” How could his desire be satisfied before his soldiers drew their swords, which is only mentioned in the subsequent phrase: “Arik charbi – I will draw my sword”?
The last phrase is: “Torisheimo yadi – My hand will impoverish them.” This phrase speaks about what ensues toward the end of a battle; we subdue, overcome, and impoverish the enemy. But this is also only mentioned after the enemies have wiped out the opposition and taken the spoils. How can this be?
This is the way we would have expected Pharaoh to state his plans: “First, we will pursue and overtake (Erdof asig). Next, we will draw our swords (Arik charbi). Then, after a heated battle, our hand will impoverish them as we gain the upper hand (Torisheimo yadi). With the tide in our favor, our desire will be fulfilled through them (Timla’eimo nafshi). And only then will we divide the spoils (Achaleik shallal).”
The Kehillas Yitzchak quotes Rav Moshe Yitzchak of Ponovezh, who explains this in a clever way. In Parashas Bo, after receiving the warning regarding Makkas Arbeh, the Plague of Locusts, Pharaoh seemed to relent and asked Moshe, “Mi va’mi haholchim – Who will go?” (Shemos 10:8).
Moshe responded, “Bine’ureinu u’vi’zekeineinu neileich be’vaneinu u’vi’venoseinu be’tzoneinu u’vi’vekareinu neileich – We will go with our youth and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go” (ibid. V.9).
The order of those going out also seems incorrect. Why were the youth placed before the old – the bachurim before their elders, their roshei yeshivah?
The pshat is that they were going into a desert, an unpredictable and often hostile environment. Therefore, the Yidden had to be prepared for all eventualities. With this in mind, they put the youth, in the prime of their strength and the most capable in the event of hostilities, at the front. Behind them were the elders, who, although past their prime, were still able to fight. Behind them were the sons and daughters, the young children. And in the rear were the most vulnerable, the animals.
For safety’s sake, they went out from strongest to weakest. But Pharaoh planned on attacking from behind. Thus, when rallying his troops, he described what would occur based on the order that Moshe had given him.
First, the Mitzrim would catch up to the animals, which were in the back. We know from the Gemara (Bechoros 5b) that the animals carried the riches that the Jews had taken from Egypt. That’s why the first step, after chasing and overtaking them, was: “Achaleik shallal – I will divide the booty.” Pharaoh planned on reaching the spoils that were being carried by the animals, even before any real fighting began.
Then they would come up to the children, the sons and daughters, and capture them. For this reason, it says next, “Timla’eimo nafshi –My desire will be filled from them.” By taking the children captive, they would satisfy their desire, even without drawing their swords.
Then the Egyptians would come up to the elders and the youth, the frontline troops. For this part of the plan, they would have to draw their swords: “Arik charbi – I will draw my sword.”
Finally, after a heated and protracted battle, they would subdue the Yidden: “Torisheimo yadi – My hand will impoverish them.”
Pharaoh, a wise and cunning general, used Moshe’s words to develop a strategic battle plan. However, Bnei Yisrael had the ultimate Warrior on their side.
“Eileh va’rechev ve’eileh va’susim va’anachnu be’Sheim Hashem Elokeinu nazkir – Some with chariots, and some with horses; but we in the Name of Hashem, our G-d, call out” (Tehillim 20:8).
3. A Split for a Split: BEAUTIFUL LESSON
וישכם אברהם בבקר ויחבש את חמרו ויקח את שני נעריו אתו ואת יצחק בנו ויבקע עצי עולה
And Avraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him, and Yitzchak his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering (Bereishis 22:3).
It says in the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 21:8) that years later, when the Jews were leaving Mitzrayim, Hashem said, “Bizechus Avraham Ani bokea lahem es hayam baavur mah she’asah she’ne’emar, ‘Vayevaka atzei olah,’ ve’omer, ‘Vayibaku hamayim.” Rabbi Banya says that it was in the merit of Avraham that Hashem split the sea for the Jews. Before the Akeidah, it says that Avraham split the wood for the offering, and at Krias Yam Suf, the pasuk says that Hashem split the sea – both times with the shoresh of בקע .
What is the middah keneged middah? The magnitude of Avraham’s merit shouldn’t lie in his splitting the wood, but rather in the culmination of the Akeidah, where he tied down his son and brought the knife to bear. Chopping the wood seems incidental to the greatness of the act later on, where he showed his willingness to slaughter his own son at the request of Hashem. Is the Midrash merely using the play on the same word to reference the Akeidah of Yitzchak as a whole, or is there a correlation between splitting the wood and splitting the sea?
Rav Shmuel Vitzik of Baltimore told me the following thought, which he heard directly from Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin. The Gemara writes that it is easier to carry ten kav (a dry measure) of gold than ten kav of straw. While both weigh the same amount, the gold – with its denser mass – is compact and manageable. That amount of straw, on the other hand, is very bulky; carrying it is both awkward and cumbersome.
If so, why did Avraham chop the wood before embarking on what was to be a three-day trip? The pasuk cited above finds Avraham preparing the wood the very morning he and his party left. Schlepping a bag of chopped wood is more unwieldy than taking an intact log. It would have been easier to take a whole log and do the chopping upon arriving at the as-of-yet unknown destination.
What’s the problem with that scenario? Avraham would take out his trusty hatchet. As Yitzchak looked on, he would carefully chop up the log and then set up the wood on the altar that he built. As willing as Yitzchak may have been to give his life for Hashem, there would still be an element reminiscent of what is known as inuy hadin – not prolonging the mental anguish.
In order to be more compassionate toward his son, Avraham chopped the wood before leaving. He was willing to take on the extra hassle of carrying the cut wood, which was bulkier, in order to alleviate the distress his son would experience were Avraham to chop it on-site.
This same compassion was in play when Hashem split the Yam Suf. Rav Tzvi Pesach brings a Midrash that says that initially Hashem intended to have the water recede as the Yidden walked in. They would walk in the water for the distance of one foot, and the water would recede one foot. They’d take another step, and the water would again back up. Says the Midrash that the compassion of Hashem overcame and He split the water from beginning to end.
Were the water to back up as they progressed, the Yidden would have still been terrified. Although they were witnessing the ongoing miracle of the water receding, they would have faced a mountain of water, and they would always worry if the miracle will continue. There would have been an element of constant dread – inuy hadin. By splitting the sea all the way through, Hashem assured them that the path would stay open.
The Midrash says: In the merit of Avraham splitting the wood before his trip, making it more difficult on himself in order to alleviate the stress of another, Hashem split the water in a way that also alleviated the stress of others. Interestingly, although one Midrash says that Avraham made two cuts of wood, others say that there were 12 cuts. Therefore, the water split into 12 separate paths for the Yidden, as a reward for the 12 pieces that Avraham made.
We see that it wasn’t just the splitting that Hashem did for Avraham’s children in the merit of his splitting, but the compassion with which He did the action; this was the reward for Avraham’s display of compassion toward his son.
4. Beshalach — Governed by Gratitude. Why The Sea Split for the Coffin of Yosef.
ויאמר משה אל העם אל תיראו התיצבו וראו את ישועת ה’ אשר יעשה לכם היום כי אשר ראיתם את מצרים היום לא תסיפו לראתם עוד עד עולם: ה’ ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון
Moshe said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again! Hashem will do battle for you, and you shall remain silent” (Shemos 14:13-14).
When Bnei Yisrael found themselves with nowhere to run, Moshe calmed their fears, promising them that Hashem would take care of them. Soon after, the sea was split. Alluding to the miracle of Krias Yam Suf, David HaMelech says, “Hayam ra’ah va’yanos — The sea saw and fled” (Tehillim 114:3), which begs the question: What exactly did the yam see that made it decide to flee? The Midrash (Midrash Tehillim 114:9) explains that it saw the casket of Yosef, and Hashem said, “Let the sea flee on account of the one who fled.” In other words, the miracle took place in the merit of Yosef, who fled from Potiphar’s wife, as it says, “Vayanas vayeitzei hachutzah — And he fled and he went outside” (Bereishis 39:12).
What was it about Yosef’s action that caused the sea to defy its nature and split for Bnei Yisrael? Perhaps the most obvious explanation is given by the Maharal (Gevuros Hashem, Chapter 40), who explains that the sea went against its nature and split before Bnei Yisrael in the merit of Yosef, who overcame his nature and fled the house of Potiphar to refrain from sinning. The Maharal then connects this to another zechus that helped bring about Krias Yam Suf, the fact that Avraham split the wood for Akeidas Yitzchak. In fact, the root בקע is used for the splitting of the wood: “Vayevaka atzei olah — He split the wood for the offering” (Bereishis 22:3), and the splitting of the sea:”Vayibaku hamayim — And the waters split” (Shemos 14:21). Like Yosef, Avraham was willing to defy the typical nature of a father with his willingness to sacrifice Yitzchak, much as Yosef defied and overcame his nature to flee from Potiphar’s wife. In both instances, it was the incredible strength of overcoming of one’s nature that prompted the sea to overcome its nature.
The Ksav Sofer (ad loc.) suggests another beautiful correlation between Yosef fleeing from Potiphar’s wife and the sea fleeing from the coffin of Yosef. We well understand Yosef’s response to Eishes Potiphar’s tempting proposition; she had grabbed hold of the garment he was wearing and Yosef had no choice but to flee. As we know, she later used the garment as proof of her claim that Yosef had accosted her and had initiated the assault by removing his garment (Bereishis 39:15-16). Only when she had begun to scream, she claimed, did he quickly run out without taking it along.
So why did Yosef leave behind such incriminating evidence, thereby risking his life, especially since he could have easily wrested it from her grasp? The Ramban (Bereishis 39:12) explains that out of honor for his mistress, Yosef did not want to remove it from her hand using his strength, which was greater than hers. According to the Ksav Sofer, this was because it would have shown a lack of derech eretz to use force against his master’s wife after Potiphar had been good to Yosef during his time of need. He therefore fled empty-handed, leaving behind his garment — and the evidence — rather than forcibly ripping it from her hands; he had a debt of hakaras hatov payable to her and her husband, under whose roof he had lived.
This same degree of gratitude was on display when Bnei Yisrael found themselves with the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army right behind them. There were at least 600,000 adult men, who had left Egypt armed with weapons (Rashi 13:18). Why not just turn around and use these weapons against the Egyptians? Why did Moshe have to assure Bnei Yisrael that Hashem would fight for them and they would be silent?
The Ksav Sofer cites the Ibn Ezra (Shemos 14:13), who explains that from their youth, the Jews had been taught subservience to the Egyptians, and were therefore lacking confidence, wondering how they could possibly fight their masters. For this reason, they were weak and not proficient in the art of war. Though not long after this they fought a proper battle against Amalek, according to the Ibn Ezra, it was only because of the prayers of Moshe that they succeeded. The Ksav Sofer, however, does not accept this as an explanation, contending that Moshe’s prayers could have been employed against the Egyptians, as well. In fact, in every war, we engage the prayers of our leaders. So then why did they not fight a conventional war against Mitzrayim?
To answer, the Ksav Sofer cites the mitzvah (Devarim 23:8), “Lo sesa’eiv Mitzri ki ger hayisa ve’artzo — You shall not reject an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner in his land.” Rashi (ad loc.) elaborates, even though the Egyptians threw our baby boys into the river, we were still given lodging in their land in our time of need, and that is why we should not reject them. Chazal (Berachos 63b) derive from here the importance of reciprocating kindness to those who have provided us lodging. Similarly, the Gemara (Bava Kama 92b) teaches, “If you drank from a well, do not throw stones into it.” Accordingly, Moshe and the rest of Bnei Yisrael did not want to stand up to the Egyptians and kill them — because of the hospitality the Egyptians extended toward them years earlier during the famine. They did not want to be ungrateful and cause the Egyptians harm. Instead, they chose to rely on HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s miraculous intervention, even though they technically could have fought against the Egyptians.
This is what the Midrash cited above is implying. The Yam Suf wondered why it should split for Bnei Yisrael, who were perfectly capable of fighting their own battles. Yet when it saw the coffin of Yosef, who had himself refused to use force and thus fled empty-handed from his mistress, it understood the reason behind Bnei Yisrael’s passivity and fled from them. Just as Yosef kept hakaras hatov uppermost in his mind — even though it resulted in a negative consequence — Bnei Yisrael were willing to embrace the same variety of hakaras hatov — even though it may have a negative consequence.
Perhaps we can integrate this thought of the Ksav Sofer to explain, be’derech drush, the juxtaposition of the pasuk of “…Va’chamushim alu Vnei Yisrael me’ Eretz Mitzrayim —… And the Children of Israel were armed when they went up from Egypt,” (Shemos 13:18), with the verse that immediately follows: “Vayikach Moshe es atzmos Yosef imo…— Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him…” Perhaps their weapons, on a spiritual and metaphysical level, were the bones of Yosef. These bones, which lay within the coffin of Yosef, protected the nation when they came to the Yam Suf and allowed them to cross, without having to fight the Egyptians. The sea saw the coffin of Yosef, who had fled, honoring the code of hakaras hatov, and therefore fled from Bnei Yisrael, who wanted to honor the same code and show their gratitude to the Egyptians. While they left with physical weapons, they were also protected and assisted by metaphysical ones, the bones of Yosef and the hakaras hatov they represent, which was emulated by the Jews themselves.
The Ksav Sofer concludes his piece by discussing something that comes up later in Sefer Shemos. When Yisro came to join Bnei Yisrael, the pasuk says (Shemos 17:1), “Vayishma Yisro — And Yisro heard.” What exactly did he hear? Rashi (ad loc.) informs us that he heard about Krias Yam Suf and the war with Amalek.
What was unique about these two miracles that prompted his arrival? The Ksav Sofer explains that Yisro was concerned about how he would be received by the Jews, wondering, “Will I, a stranger to the people, be welcomed with open arms? Should I make the journey, only to be rejected? At the same time, I have done much for these people. I welcomed Moshe into my home, gave him lodging when he was a refugee from Egypt, and let him marry my daughter. There is a debt of hakaras hatov owed me. Will they honor that debt?”
However, when Yisro heard about the miracle of Krias Yam Suf, he was faced with unambiguous evidence that they do honor such a debt and that they are a people full of gratitude. “Just look,” he said to himself. “The sea split before them, specifically because they did not have the heart to fight those who had given them a home, even though the Egyptians later enslaved them. If so, they will certainly demonstrate gratitude for what I have done for Moshe and, by extension, all of Klal Yisrael. After all, unlike the Egyptians, I’ve done them no harm!”
The Ksav Sofer continues: But then Yisro reflected that perhaps their refusal to fight, which necessitated the splitting of the sea, was not out of gratitude but because they were unlearned in war and were afraid, as the Ibn Ezra writes. However, when he heard about the war with Amalek, his concerns were laid to rest. For it was during the war with Amalek that Yehoshua led the Jews in battle and they fought valiantly. Yisro then understood that they were indeed battle ready, and they had only refrained from fighting against the Egyptians out of gratitude.
Upon hearing about Krias Yam Suf and also the war against Amalek, Yisro understood that Bnei Yisrael are governed by an extraordinarily high degree of hakaras hatov. Hence, he gladly made the trek to the midbar, assured of the beautiful reception he would receive.April 1, 2021 10:20 am at 10:20 am #1961781
There is a halacha O’CH 62 MB s’k 2 saying that one who reads krias shema by enounciating the letters correctly, the gehinam is cooled down for him. The Tzetil Katan says that our purpose in life is to change our nature. Yosef changed his nature by resisting the advances of Potifar’s wife, Hashem changed the nature of the sea to make it split. Hashem changes the nature of the gehinam for one who changes his own nature by enounciating the letters of krias shema correctly.April 2, 2021 11:14 am at 11:14 am #1962034
The Berditchever zy’a explains that the argument by the ruler of the sea that the Jews also worshipped a’z was beneficial to them. It says rama bayam, elevate in the sea and yara bayam, thrown in the sea. The question is why the mitzryim went into the sea after seeing that a miracle happened? This argument gave them a feeling of victory and elevation thereby thinking that they will succeed which led to their downfall and being thrown into the sea.April 2, 2021 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm #1962064CHOOSIDParticipant
Uhh!!mi Kamcha yisroel!! This is what yiden talk about in the coffe room!! Hashem look at your holy nation!!April 2, 2021 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm #1962060
We see from the above that something that looks bad how Hashem can turn it to good. Similarly, Pesach, Matzah and Maror. Maror seems to be out of place as it happened first. However, Maror, the kushei hashubud, hardship in servitude, is part of redemption by accelerating (210) the gaula before the time (400).April 5, 2021 9:21 am at 9:21 am #1962358abukspanParticipant
thank you again for adding to the discussionApril 6, 2021 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm #1962879
The Dubner Magid says that it says a person should bless Hashem for the bad as tbe good. When a situation has a good part in it, the end and a bad part in it, the means then we should bless Hashem for the means as well as the end. Yisro knew that krias yam suf and milchemes amolek was good for the Jews but the shibud, servitude to cleanse us was also good he did not know until told by Moshe Rabbenu, vaysaper Moshe lechosna.
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