April 13, 2020 7:04 pm at 7:04 pm #1849364abukspanParticipant
5. Beshalach 3 — Governed by Gratitude. Very nice Ksav Sofer
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 13, 2020 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm #1849407Reb EliezerParticipant
This happens to be a halacha MB 62,2 to express the letters of krias shema properly to cool off the gehinom. When he does things against his nature, Hashem does things against its nature.
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