Points to Ponder

Beshalach 5777

Moshe took the bones of Yosef (13:19) – The Talmud (Sotah 13a) praises Moshe for being able to be involved in Mitzvos as the nation was involved in taking the gold & silver of Egypt. Rav Zelig Yehuda Bengis ztl. asked that this was one mitzvah. Why do Chazal say that he was involved in Mitzvos? He explained that Moshe was involved in keeping his promise but also involved in teaching the people a lesson – that although they may be taking all of the gold and silver, it is not these things that are significant – for these are fleeting and die.

And they didn’t come near one another all night long (14:20) – The Talmud (Sanhedrin 39b) notes that this was the time that the angels wanted to sing Shirah to Hashem and Hashem responded that his creations are drowning in the sea and you wish to sing Shirah?! But Bnei Yisrael  WERE permitted to sing Shirah. Why? Moreover why were the angels not permitted – after all, when the wicked are destroyed it is a time for Rinah? Rav Yehoshua Leib Kutner ztl. explains that when a person undergoes surgery, the family of the patient, all of whom know that it will be good for them in the future, are not happy with the surgery. After all, it is their loved one who is on the table. Similarly, during the time of ridding ourselves of evil which leaves the world with health, there is no Simcha. Once the surgery is over (and the evils were excised) then it was time for the Jews to sing.   

They believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant (14:31)- What does this mean? Rav Schachter Shlita explained that there is a need for belief in Hashem should be a precursor for other Mitzvos. How can it be a Mitzvah in of itself (which is the Rambam’s opinion). It sounds like the Rambam understands that the Mitzva is Leida – to go over the logical and philosophical proof to Hashem’s existence. But, no one does that today? The Baal HaTanya says that when the word Leida is used, it means that the awareness that Hashem exists should be at the forefront of our minds at all times. Rav Schachter added that this is the meaning of U’B’Moshe Avdo – the same way that they were aware of Moshe’s existence because he stands before him, they have to have that faith in Hashem who needs to be in the forefront of their minds.

Then they sang (15:1) – Why didn’t they sing before? The Yirushalmi (Pesachim 10:6) answers that when Hashem performs miracles, the chance to sing Shirah for them only begins when the Geulah is complete. So how did they know that the Geulah was complete at the end? Rav Zolti Ztl. explained that it says Vayaaminu BaHashem. The entirety of Geulah is the ability to have Emunah Sheleima and that is when they sang.

This is my God and I will praise him (15:2) – The Gemara (Sotah 30b) notes that even a baby and a fetus in the mother’s womb stopped and pointed and declared “Zeh Keli”. The gemara is troubling. Normally Nevuah is only achieved by those who prepare for it (The Gemara compares the Kiryas Yam Suf to the vision of Yechezkel who definitely prepared), so how could a Shifcha or a fetus attain a higher level of prophesy than those who prepared? Rav Haim Sabato Shlita explains that the job of the Novi is to prepare himself to be a vessel of Hashem in totality. When a person perceives that his whole existence depends on Hashem, he merits a superior level of awareness (Zeh HaShaar L’Hashem). At the shore of Yam Suf, the babies and fetuses and the Shifcha were all those who fully recognized that their entire existence was in Hashem’s hands – as they were singled out for annihilation. The extra training of the Novi is such that he should not ever forget it – even after the immediate salvation is achieved (See Rav Chaim Shmuellevitz).

And Moshe led Yisrael from Yam Suf (15:22) – The Yalkut Shimoni notes that he led them away from their Aveiros. Based on this,  the Yalkut notes that one who experiences a miracle and says Shirah attains atonement for sin. The question is why? Rav Aharon Kotler ztl. explained that Shirah contains 2 componets to it. On the one hand it is a Hakaras Hatov for salvation and on the other hand, it is an opportunity for the person to achieve greater spiritual heights within himself as he becomes more aware of godliness within the world. (Hence the Torah itself – source of holiness and spirituality, is known as a Shirah). To this second reason, we understand why the Jews were permitted to recite Shirah while the Malachim were not. Angels do not grow spiritually, ergo their need to sing was not necessary. When one grows from an experience, he becomes as if he is a new person. Thus, the Yalkut declares he is as if s/he is forgiven for sins.

And Hashem told Moshe to write this down in a Sefer (17:14) – We do not find that Moshe followed through? Why is it not included here? Rav Nissan Alpert ztl. explained that the Mitzva to destroy Amalek was not going to be achieved by Moshe Rabbeinu. Thus, the writing of the Mitzva was a middle step before the achievement which would happen only through Yehoshua. Thus, Moshe didn’t complete the job and such the Torah does not credit him with having done so.

Haftorah: So too, the enemies of Hashem should be destroyed (Shoftim 5: 31) – The Gemara (Gittin 36b) notes that those who are embarrassed and do not respond are considered among the ones referenced here as part of the end of the Shiras Devorah – those who love Hashem. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik ztl. asked where the reference to the ones who are embarrassed appears in the possuk? He answered in the name of Rav Kook ztl. that in truth the possuk on the surface offers a contradiction – it refers to a Tzeis HaShemesh which refers to dawn and B’Gevuraso – when the sun is at its strongest which is much later – at Chatzos. What then does the Possuk refer to? It must refer to the one who is knocked down quietly but whose greatest strength is yet to be seen. That is the Tzeitz HaShemesh – the embarrassed one still has a lot of good things to say and do really soon…