Dedicated for the Continued Torah Growth of Our Community
Parashat Beshalach The Waters of Israel 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! Before discussing the parting of the Red Sea, there is something interesting to point out about Israel’s geography. The Sea of Galilee (also called the Kineret) and the Dead Sea are two bodies of water in Israel that could not be more different. The Kineret is teeming with life. It is home to 24 species of fish, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Its shores have many birds and are lush with vegetation. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, contains no life at all; it’s toxic and bitter. Yet both are fed from the same source, the Jordan River. How could two bodies of water that are fed from a single source be so different? The Sea of Galilee receives water from one end and gives out water from the other, while the Dead Sea takes water but has no outlet. Life is all about give-and-take. If a person just constantly takes but does not give to anyone, that person withers into something toxic and bitter. Yet if one concentrates on not only receiving, but giving, he will be full of life! 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 Or HaChaim asks, “Who should they cry out to, if not to Hashem?” Hashem instructed Moshe, “Speak to B’nei Yisrael and tell them to move forward!” The Or HaChaim 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. Rabbenu 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 they seem so obvious and simple! Rabbi Elimelech Biderman told a story about the power of emunah—faith. On a Shabbat afternoon, a man went to a bet midrash and found another man saying Tehillim fervently, with all his heart and soul. He was inspired, so he also began to say some Tehillim in this emotional manner. When he saw that the man finished, he went over to him and said, “By the way you were praying, it seems that you are going through a hard time. Would you like to talk about it?” He replied, “I have a very special daughter, she has amazing qualities, but I’m unable to find a shidduch for her because I don’t have money for a dowry. I feel so sorry for her. Every Shabbat after lunch I come to the bet midrash and take the time to pour my heart out to Hashem for my daughter, because I know He will take care of her.” “I also have an older child at home,” said the other. “He is a talmid chacham, he has good middot and yirat shamayim, but I also can’t find a shidduch for him, since I too don’t have money. Here is a thought, you have a special daughter, I have a great son. We are both poor. Let the children marry and we both won’t partake in the dowry.” The shidduch went through. From this couple, four great gedolim were born. One was Rabbi Aryeh Leib Heller who wrote the Ketzot HaChoshen, one was Yehuda Heller Kahana who wrote the Kuntras HaSfekot, and a countless line of descendants after them contributed immensely to written Judaic works. From this story, we learn the power of tefillah and emunah that Hashem will take care of our challenges. Against Its Nature 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.” Hashem ordered the sea to split on behalf of Moshe, who was due to receive the Torah for B’nei Yisrael. There are many occasions in the Torah where great men were 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. When Hashem created the sea, He made a yesod—fundamental concept that if a talmid chacham 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!” 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 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 sang, “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 song she sang, “having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.” 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 remember to give to others like the Sea of Galilee. May we 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! May we always continue to sing praises to Hashem as Miriam, Devorah and so many other great women throughout our history have always done! And may we honor the Shabbat for the amazing, holy, sacred day it is!! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
What leaps of faith have we taken in life, and what was the outcome?
How would your family look without your wife’s contributions?
The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea come from the same source, yet the Sea of Galilee is teeming with life while the Dead Sea is toxic and bitter. The Sea of Galilee receives water from one end and gives out water from the other, while the Dead Sea takes water but has no outlet. When a person constantly takes, he becomes bitter, but when one gives to others as well, he becomes full of life!
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 chacham 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!
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