Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Yaakov Ben Chana, Jacob Hidary A'h
by His Son Ike
At the end of last week’s parasha, after Pharaoh reluctantly sent B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe instructed the people, “And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, ‘What is this?’ You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage.’ (13:14)” From that time until today, every mitzvah we are commanded to do and every holiday that we celebrate is a reminder of how Hashem saved us from Pharaoh’s grip and redeemed us from slavery with a strong hand!
Every day we read in the Shema, “Ani Hashem Elokechem asher hotzeti etchem me’eretz Mitzrayim leheyot lachem le’Elokim—I am Hashem, your G-d who redeemed you from the land of Egypt to be your G-d.” This text reminds us that it’s our obligation to pass the story of our redemption from generation to generation up until this very day!
A Leap of Faith
As B’nei Yisrael left Egypt, Hashem sent them on a detour in order to bypass the land of the Philistines. This led them to the shores of the Yam Suf. When they realized that Pharaoh’s army was pursuing them, and they were trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army, they began to lose faith that Hashem would not save them again.
They cried out to Hashem, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?” Hashem responded to Moshe, “Ma tizak Elai — Why do you cry out to Me?” The Ohr HaHayyim asks, “Who should they cry out too, if not to Hashem?”
Hashem instructed Moshe, “Speak to B’nei Yisrael and tell them to move forward!” The Ohr HaHayyim explains that sometimes tefillah is not enough and we need to take a leap of faith to show our emunah in Hashem! According to the midrash, Nachshon ben Aminadav, a prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first one to take that leap of faith and literally jumped into the Yam Suf.
Rabenu Bachiya explains that the water didn’t split all at once, and therefore they were not able to see across to the other side. Rather, there was a wall of water in front of them, but with each step that they took, the sea split a bit more. Similarly, we move forward step by step, and as we go through the trials and tribulations of our lives, we overcome our challenges one at a time. It’s only much later in our lives that we can look back and see with clarity how our lives progressed and how we have grown to the point where we are today! We must constantly have emunah and bitachon that Hashem will be there for us and guide us through our lives — as long as we continue to follow in the derech of Hashem — even though we can’t possibly see what lies ahead of us!
Hashem says to us, ma tizak Elai? Why are you crying out to Me? Just take that leap of faith and have complete confidence that I am always with you! The splitting of the sea has been compared to shidduchim and parnassah. Those things are as difficult as Kiriyat Yam Suf – Splitting of the Sea but in retrospect it seems so obvious and simple!
Rabbi Wallerstein told a story about how Hashem ‘split the sea’ and made a shidduch for a young man who took a leap of faith like Nachshon ben Aminadav. Rabbi Wallerstein used to teach the 8th grade in Crown Heights Yeshiva. During his years of teaching, a younger boy in a different grade, Howie, was unfortunately expelled from school due to his disruptive behavior. Years later, Rabbi Wallerstein was attending the wedding of one of his former students. The rabbi found his table number, and recognized Howie seated next to him, along with his girlfriend, who wasn’t Jewish. Howie was Rabbi Wallerstein’s former student’s brother.
The rabbi asked Howie to dance with him and the groom during the first song. The rabbi pulled Howie close and said in his ear how sorry he was that the school had made such an unfortunate decision, and that Howie was loved and appreciated. Rabbi Wallerstein went to leave the wedding hall, and Howie trailed after him. He told him “Rabbi, I am a Buddhist now. I traveled to the Himalayas and that’s where I met my girlfriend.” Rabbi Wallerstein understood now why Howie’s head was fully shaved and he had large tattoos of the Buddha on both his arms. The rabbi offered Howie an opportunity, saying, “I don’t know much about the Buddhist religion, but please come and speak at my Tuesday night class. Perhaps we can all learn something.” Ecstatic, Howie accepted.
Howie came that Tuesday night and started discussing all the merits of Buddhism. Rabbi Wallerstein allowed him to speak freely, and when he was done, the rabbi made a joke, “If Buddha is a god, how come he can’t lose some weight?” and continued to get the class back on track. Howie and the rabbi stayed in touch, and Howie came to the Tuesday night class every week. Not long after, Howie and his Buddhist girlfriend broke up.
A few months later, Rabbi Wallerstein suggested Howie come with him to Israel to find a yeshivah that would be suited for him. Howie obliged, and sure enough, two years at the Yeshivah and Howie became Chaim Simcha. He called Rabbi Wallerstein and asked him to find him a shidduch in America, as he was afraid no one in Israel would be okay with his tattoos. Rabbi Wallerstein knew Israel was the best environment for this young man, so he told him, “Give it a couple more months. Hashem will answer you and give you a shidduch. If not, you can come back to America.”
A month later, Chaim called the rabbi. “Rebbe, you wouldn’t believe it! One of the teachers here set me up, and I think she’s a good match! But she comes from a traditional family. I’m still very worried she won’t be so accepting when I tell her about my tattoos. They’re on my arms, neck, and chest. I wear a turtleneck on the hottest summer days.” Rabbi Wallerstein told him not to worry, to have faith and emunah in Hashem’s hand. “Don’t tell her yet. Go out a few times, and if you see there is a future, Hashem will take care of it. Maybe she will understand, or maybe this is the path Hashem wants you to take to find your shidduch.”
A couple of months later, it was time for Chaim to tell her. He took his leap of faith. “I have to tell you something, but please don’t react right away.” The girl thought, “Oh, he must be proposing!!” She urged him to continue. Chaim proceeded to pull his arm out of his jacket sleeve, and she saw his tattoos. “That’s not the only one I have,” Chaim said. “There are more on my other arm and my chest and back. I understand if you don’t want to see me again. This was my past and it left its consequences.” The girl sat silently, taking everything in.
She took a breath and said, “I only see one tattoo. You are incredibly spiritual, and Hashem’s name has imprinted on your soul. That is the most important thing. Don’t worry about anything else.” Chaim let out a sigh of relief, and asked, “By the way, will you marry me?” Today the couple lives in Bnei Brak with their beautiful children. Hashem split the sea for them, and Howie took a leap of faith to end up where he is today.
The Power of Talmidei Hachamim
Our rabbis tell us that when B’nei Yisrael reached the Yam Suf, the water did not want to split. The Yam Suf said to Hashem, “Why should I split for Moshe? I was created on the third day, and man was created on the sixth day, which makes me greater than man.”
The Rabbis explain that the Torah preceded the world and is a blueprint for this world. When Hashem created the sea, He made a yesod—fundamental concept that if a talmid hacham asks water to go against its nature, then the water is obligated to do so. The water protested that Moshe was not a talmid hacham yet, because the Torah would only be given forty days later! Hashem replied that Moshe was on his way to receive the Torah so that he would qualify as a talmid hacham.
The Yam Suf listened and split for Moshe! There are many occasions in the Torah when great men are able to perform miracles, like when Yehoshua was able to stop the sun from setting during a battle to conquer the land of Israel. Great Rabbis have also been able to bring about miraculous events that indicate Hashem’s intervention.
Rabbi Nissim Yagen zt’l speaks about how there’s a common misconception that angel is greater than man. But the Hebrew translation of malach—angel, also translates to messenger. An angel has no capabilities unless Hashem assigns something to him. But according to the Baal HaIkarim, a prophet has the power to perform miracles and change nature, even when he is not acting as Hashem’s messenger. A righteous person has the ability to build or destroy worlds, to bring life or death. To teach us this fact, Hashem told Moshe, “Extend your hand over the sea and split it!”
Yosef to the Rescue
Another midrash teaches that the angel in charge of the Yam Suf argued about going against its nature. The angel had been assigned to keep the water flowing, and by Moshe splitting the sea, he would interfere with the angel’s assignment.
The Rabbis explain that Moshe was still carrying Yosef’s bones in order to bring them out of Egypt as Yosef had requested. When the Yam Suf saw Yosef’s bones, they were a reminder that Yosef Hatzaddik had gone against his yetzer hara and run away from Potifar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Because Yosef completely went against his nature, the sea obeyed the order to split. B’nei Yisrael were able to walk through the waters and thus be rescued from the Egyptian army.
The Horse with Its Rider
After B’nei Yisrael had safely crossed to the other side of the Yam Suf as the Egyptian army pursued them, Hashem performed another miracle and caused the sea to come down on drown Pharaoh’s army, along with their horses and chariots.
Moshe’s sister Miriam gathered all the women on the shores of the Yam Suf to sing praises to Hashem in celebration of their rescue from Pharaoh and his army. Miriam leads the song, “Sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea (15:21).” The rabbis tell us that the women asked Miriam, “How will we, as women, get reward for the mitzvah of Torah study?”
The answer came in the form of another question, “Why were the horses punished along with the Egyptian soldiers?” The midrash answers that just as the horses died because they helped the soldiers pursue B’nei Yisrael, so too will the women reap the rewards for being the ones who help to the men, who are responsible for learning the Torah and carrying it forward throughout the generations!
There’s an interesting connection between this week’s parasha and the haftara, which begins with the passuk, “On that day, Devorah and Barak, son of Abinoam sang, whether Hashem wreaks vengeance against Israel, or the people dedicate themselves to Him, bless Hashem!” This song goes on to praise Hashem for thirty stanzas, ending with the line, “So may all Your enemies be destroyed, Hashem. And let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun.” These two songs from two great prophetesses, Miriam and of Devorah, eloquently display our dedication and reverence to the Almighty Hashem.
May we all have emunah in Hashem that He’s always with us throughout our lives, each step of the way, even though we may not yet be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. May we also emulate Nachshon ben Aminadav by having the courage to take that leap of faith with our families and in our careers, with the belief that Hashem will always be there for us if we have emunah! May we always continue to sing praises to Hashem as Miriam, Devorah and so many other great women throughout our history have always done!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
How would your family look without your wife’s contributions?
What leaps of faith have we taken in life, and what was the outcome?
Hashem asks Moshe, “Ma tizak Elai — Why do you cry out to Me?” when B’nei Yisrael are worried at the shores of the Yam Suf. He tells Moshe to instruct B’nei Yisrael to move forward, to take a leap of faith and trust that everything will be okay. And the sea split!
When Hashem created the sea, He made a yesod—fundamental concept that if a talmid hacham asks water to go against its nature, then the water is obligated to do so. A righteous person has the ability to build or destroy worlds, to bring life or death. To teach us this fact, Hashem told Moshe, “Extend your hand over the sea and split it!”
When the Yam Suf saw Yosef’s bones, they were a reminder that Yosef Hatzaddik had gone against his yetzer hara and run away from Potifar’s wife when she tried to seduce him. Because Yosef completely went against his nature, the sea obeyed the order to split.
The midrash says that just as the horses died because they helped the soldiers pursue B’nei Yisrael, so too will the women reap the rewards for being the ones who help to the men, who are responsible for learning the Torah and carrying it forward throughout the generations!
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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