Points to Ponder

Beshalach 5778


And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him (13:19) – Rashi cites the Midrash that Yosef made the family order their children swear in each generation to take the bones of Yosef out with them. Why would the Shavuah not be binding on the future generations? Rav Schachter Shlita would answer in the name of the Rochachover that there is a difference between a Shavuas Yachid and a Shavuah for the Tzibbur. Before the Maamad Har Sinai there was no concept of Tzibbur and therefore no way to


They fell to the depths like stone (15:5) – At certain points the people are identified as lead, stone and straw. Why such different descriptions of the was the Egyptians died? Rashi explains that the differences reflected the different styles of the way they experienced punishment. Those who were less evil to the Jews died faster. The worse suffered. Rav Shteinman ztl. explains that this is why in the Shirah at times the Egyptians are thought of in the single and at other times they are identified in the plural. When they were united as a nation an acted nationally, the single form of pronoun is used. When the people were segmented and their response diverse, they are identified in the plural.


The nations heard and trembled (15:14) – Why is it so important to know how the nations reacted to the news of Kriyas Yam Suf? It seems to get a disproportionate amount of focus in the Shirah, Why?  Rav Belsky ztl. explains that the word Az appears twice in the Shirah. It highlights the two ways one can handled moments that we are not prepared for in life. In the first way, Az is harnessed by Bnei Yisrael to see the glory of Hashem and to appreciate it. In the other way – the way of the other nations, it is a means of becoming overwhelmed and not rising to the occasion – choosing to be overtaken and immobilized by our fear. The method we use depends on how we can handle the world with a higher power running it.


And Miriam took the drum (15:20) – After all of the joint singing why do we single out Miriam’s contribution? Rav Volch Shlita explains that the significance is not the song. Singing in the moment is a natural response to a miracle. The trick is to remember the event afterward. Miriam’s continuation of the song is the guarantee that even in the future the song and its impact will not be lost on the people. Whenever a chance to thank Hashem will come, songs will be song  to recognize the greatness due Hashem.

There He gave them law and statute (15:25) - Rashi explains based on the gemara in Sanhedrin, that this means that God commanded the Jews to observe three mitzvot even BEFORE receiving the rest of the Torah  at Sinai. The three mitzvot were Shabbat, para aduma, and dinim (which Rashi later explains to refer to kibbud av va-em).  Rav Amital ztl. would use this Rashi to help Chozrei B’Teshuva to learn a place to begin. He advised a three part approach:

1.  Start by observing Shabbat.  If it is too hard to be a Jew seven days a week, then try at least one day a week.


2.  Pick any mitzva bein adam le-chaveiro such as kibbud av va-em and observe it scrupulously.  It is important to stress that Halakha does not relate only to matters between man and God, but also legislates interpersonal ethics.


3.  Para aduma: you must choose a mitzva which you don’t understand and observe it as well.  One must realize that despite all the rationale behind the mitzvot, ultimately we cannot understand everything and we do not base our observance only on our rational appreciation of the mitzvot.


They came to Eilim and there they found 12 wells and 70 date palms (15:27) – Why was this so significant? Moreover 70 palm trees is not such a large number why is it significant? Rav Simcha Zissel Broide ztl. explained that there is a strong connection between the 12 and the 70 here and the 12 Shevatim and the 70 Zekanim. The significance is crucial. The dependence we have as a nation on the preservation of the ideals of the Shevatim and the Kavod due to the Zekanim is what keeps us strong. Already as the fledgling nation was growing, we were reminded to remain strong contributors from our position of strength and be rooted in a Torah life that is led by the fruit of the labors of the Zekanim.


And Amalek came (17:8) – How could the nation about whom it is written that they saw the hand of Hashem become the nation attacked by Amalek? Ohr HaChaim explains that they were lazy in their study of Torah – that they didn’t remain trained for the battles it required so they fought a different battle – that of Amalek. Kli Yakar adds that the power of Amalek is like the power of the fly – it is a weak creation until it is placed on an open wound. When that happens it can place a deadly infection that can bring a whole body down. Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl. adds that this is what happened with Amalek. That is why we deal with them so harshly.


Haftorah: She told him that I will go with you but your glory will not be your own because Hashem will deliver Sisra into the hand of a woman (4:9) – Which woman is she referring to? Redak assumes that the reference is to Yael but he is troubled with the explanation choosing instead to reference the fact that if she were to go it would be assumed that the victory was hers and not Barak’s. Ralbag assumes that the reference is to Devorah. Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk ztl. asks a different question – to whom was Sisra “sold”? He explains that it was Yael who had to give up her marriage to Chever HaKeinee as a result of the Sisra episode – this was the cost of defending the Jewish nation and it was to her that the Possuk referred. 

Points to Ponder

Bo 5778


Come to Pharaoh because I have hardened his heart (10:1) – The idea that Moshe should go to Pharaoh’s palace BECAUSE Hashem hardened his heart is odd. Why is that a reason to go? Moreover, what happened to the concept of free choice? Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl. suggested that the concept of choice is strengthen based on the idea that when a person chooses a path that is the path he goes. Once entrenched in that path, he loses the perspective on it and “almost loses the choice” as a result of being entrenched. Bechira is the selection of the path and the hardening of the heart is what happens when the choice keeps happening.  Thus, says Rav Nosson Tzvi, one needs to be constantly reviewing his actions in order to ascertain if he has given up the right to choose. Pharaoh was given the chance – he didn’t take it.


With our young and our old we will go (10:9) – Pharaoh tries to strike a negotiation stance with Moshe about the holiday that Moshe wanted the people to go on. Moshe would take the men and the women and children would remain behind. But, the Rambam (in his letters) notes that this is the style that Pharaoh represented – that of the Yetzer HaRa which tries to separate the generations. Rav Volch Shlita adds that to this attempt we will always respond that as a nation we walk strongly as we walk together tall and proud – young and old.


Also Moshe was great in the eyes of Pharaoh and his nation (11:3) – Ramban points out that the Chein was only given in the context of the nation. Pharaoh did not give Moshe the same Chein. Why? Rav Simcha Zisel Broide ztl. explains that had Pharaoh allowed himself to feel favor for Moshe, he never could have bowed to him later. This was destined to be part of the punishment of Pharaoh – that he who threatened to kill Moshe if he ever saw him again would now need to bow before him in indebtedness and servitude.


So that you will know that Hashem will distinguish between Mitzrayim and Yisrael (11:8) – There are three Mitzvos that we are told L’Maan – Tzitzis, Sukkah,  & Tefillin. In each of the cases the Mitzva is followed by L’Maan. Rav Yisroel Belsky ztl. adds that we find the same idea here too. Why? Rav Belsky suggests that like in those other cases, the Torah is trying to demonstrate a difference between us and our gentile neighbors. For all time, we might live together but we are also apart. From the birth moment of the nation our silence was a means of contrast to the screams in Egypt. That contrast must remain strong if we are to thrive. We can.


And you will eat the meat on this evening (12:8) - The Rambam identifies 5 parts to Torah She’Baal Peh Halacha L’Moshe Mi’Sinai, Derashos, Pirushim  HaMikubalim L’Moshe MiSinai, Dinim D’Rabbonon and Gezairos. Why spend time on the Talmud Torah D’Rabbonon? Rav Schachter  Shlita explained that the Dinim d’Rabbonon are patterned on the Biblical Mitzva. The Korban Pesach gives us another example. We learn the rules of Shinui Makom that one needs to make a new Beracha when one changes his seat from the Korban Pesach where one who eats a Kazayis and changes his seat cannot partake of anymore.


For seven days you will eat Matzos (13:6) - Rav Yehoshua Maman ztl.[1] tried to explain why we refer to the holiday as Chag Hapesach and Hashem calls it Chag HaMatzos. He explained that when you want to consolidate a relationship and mutual commitment with someone, you must look for the good points in them. Therefore in the Torah, G-d calls Passover "The Holiday of Matza", in order to publicize our walking after Him in the desert out of great faith with only Matzas, without having prepared food for the road. But in the Oral Torah, our Sages already call this holiday Passover, to remind us of the fact that G-d passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt. It is as if both sides remind each other of the kindness that they did to each other.

Today you are leaving in the month of the spring () – Rashi explains that this is significant because it shows us the Chessed of Hashem who took us out in the springtime so that we wouldn’t be too cold or hot.  This idea though is repeated again in the context of the beginning of the barley blossoming – implying that the Aviv concept is as much about the farming cycles as it is about history. Rav Sabato Shlita explains that the 2 are indeed intertwined. Like a crop, when man begins to blossom, he discovers freedom first. Thereafter, when s/he has explored the freedom concept, the merging into something greater begins and thus, one can understand the following of Pesach with Shavuos and Matan Torah. After the establishment of the boundaries, there is a chance for a person to reap that which s/he has sown and this is the purpose of Sukkos. Highlighting Pesach in Aviv is also inspiring for the people in this early stage. (Could this be the basis of needing order for Baal Tiacher).


Haftorah: As I live…like Tavor among the mountains and Carmel by the sea so he come (Yirmiyahu 46:18) -  Yirmiyahu describes the inevitable fall of Egypt into the hands of Nevuchadnetzar. The Gemara (Megillah 29a) uses this possuk to tell us that in the future the Battei Medrash and shuls will come to Eretz Yisrael. Rav Pam ztl. bemoaned the state of decorum in our Shuls and wondered why people didn’t accord these places the respect that they deserve. He thought perhaps that people don’t appreciate the power of their Tefillos – not just those of the Tzaddikim.

[1] Rav Yehoshua Maman was the leader of Morrocan Jewry  who passed this year at the age of 100 this year.