Parshat Beshalach Vol.10 No.19

Date of issue: 17 Shevat 5761 -- February 10, 2001

This week's issue has
been sponsored by
Rabbi and Mrs. Hershel Solnica
in honor of Rabbi Adler,
Rabbi Grumet, Mr. Poleyeff, 
and the faculty and students at TABC.

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Ezra Weiner
Yair Manas
Dani Shaffren
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-*The Use Of A Videoteleconference For A Get Procedure*
Food For Thought
-by *David Gertler*

Water or Torah
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

The Midrash and Gemara are replete with Drashot from Pesukim that teach us various Halachot. Too often, we understand these Drashot only superficially, and thus we create for ourselves an impression that Chazal affixed Drashot to certain Pesukim almost haphazardly with little or no reason. This misconception cannot be further from the truth.

A well-known Drash that emerges from a Pasuk in this week's Parsha serves as a perfect example. We will examine this Drash and attempt to determine the inherent difficulties in the text that compelled Chazal to indeed learn a Drash.

Immediately following Shirat Hayam (the song of the sea), we read as follows: Vayisa Moshe Et Yisrael Mayim Suf Vayetzu El Midbar Shur, "Moshe led Bnai Yisrael from Yam Suf and they went out to the desert of Shur" (15:22).

In its interpretation of this Pasuk, the Gemara in Bava Kama (82a) comments that the Jews traveled for three days without Torah and became weary as a result. Moshe therefore instituted that there be public readings of Torah on Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat to prevent this weariness in the future. A number of questions emerge. First, the Torah had not been given yet, and the Jews had spent many years without a Torah and never seemed to have a weariness problem. Second, the Pasuk reads Velo Matzu Mayim, "And they did not find water." It mentions nothing about Torah. Granted that from the Pasuk in Yeshayahu 55, "Hoy Kol Tzameh Lechu Lemayim", we learn "Ein Mayim Shelo Torah", "there is no 'water' that is not 'Torah,'" but where in our Pasuk does there exist any indication that it was Torah and not water that Bnai Yisrael were lacking? After all, they had traveled three days in the hot desert; why would one contemplate that Mayim refers to something other than water?

To better understand this teaching of Chazal, we must appreciate the phrase "Vayelchu Derech Shloshet Yamim Bamidbar" in our Parsha by reexamining an almost identical expression that we have already encountered in Parshat Shemot. Moshe and Aharon, following Hashem's order, request of Paroh as follows: "Nelcha Na Derech Shloshet Yamim Venizbecha LaHashem Elokeinu", "Let us travel for three days in the desert and we will sacrifice to Hashem our God" (3:18). When did Moshe and Aharon intend to discharge this obligation? Ostensibly, this was to be fulfilled upon the Exodus from Egypt, or, more specifically, precisely at this juncture following Shirat Hayam. Paroh's pursuit and the splitting of the sea had prevented the performance of this long-awaited sacrificial service. It is when the Jewish People travel from Yam Suf and enter the wilderness that we should read "Vayelchu Shloshet Yamim Bamidbar Vezavchu LaHashem Elokeinu". Instead, much to our chagrin, after witnessing the wondrous ten plagues and the miraculous splitting of the sea, Bnai Yisrael spend the three days of potential offering of praise and thanksgiving looking for water.
At this point, Moshe understood that even miraculous experiences become fleeting memories and the only way to insure the constant acknowledgement of Hashem's everlasting assistance and protection is to recreate the experience. When Moshe saw that the Jews spent three days looking for water he realized that the next upcoming miraculous experience (Matan Torah) must be preserved. He therefore instituted a public reading of the Torah, which would serve as a tri-weekly recreation of Matan Torah.

"Mayim" in this context is to be taken literally. It is the replacement of this opportune time for Korbanot by a convergence on seeking water that elicits Moshe's response of instituting public Torah reading.

No Denial
by Yair Manas

There are always those who deny the existence of miracles. They claim that the works of Hashem are simply natural occurrences. This was the attitude of many nonbelievers in regard to the splitting of Yam Suf. They claimed that an earthquake or an accident of nature caused the sea to split.

To prevent any such beliefs, Hashem increased the miracle. Rashi says that not only was the Yam Suf split, but also all of the waters in the world were split. Because of this, no one could deny that this truly was an act of God.

As the Jews were standing by shore of the Yam Suf watching their enemy come closer, they did not know what to do. Suddenly, Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped into the Yam Suf with full confidence that Hashem would save him. As he touched the water, it parted and allowed the Jews to pass through. It was Nachshon's faith in Hashem that led to Bnai Yisrael's being saved.

Another miracle that Hashem gave the Jewish People was the Man. Every morning the Man dropped from the sky. Every Jew was ordered to collect a set amount of Man. They were not to take more than they needed, as those who did displayed a lack of faith in Hashem because He said that He would provide the Man daily. Even without this special assurance, these people would still have been wrong: Hashem is always performing miracles for His people. The fact that the Jews are still in existence after thousands of years of persecution is a miracle. In Israel today, miracles occur daily.

Sometimes, though, we take these daily miracles for granted. They happen all the time, so we do not bother to think about them. It is important to take the time to appreciate all of the miracles that Hashem performs, but in order for Hashem to perform great miracles for us, we have to show the same faith that Nachshon ben Aminadav showed at Yam Suf.

by Dani Shaffren

In 17:12, the Torah says that Moshe raised his hands and left them up until sunset. "Viyidei Moshe Kevedim Vayikchu Even Vayasimu Tachatav...Vayehi Yadav Emunah Ad Ba Hashemesh", "Moshe's hands were heavy and they placed a stone under him…and his hands were faithful until sunset."

Rashi (based on Rosh Hashana 29a) explains why Moshe's hands needed to be raised. He states that Moshe's hands were directed up towards Heaven in intense and deep prayer. A question emerges, though, to which Rashi does not give an answer. Why does Moshe keep his hands up until sunset? He could have prayed to Hashem for just a short time and He would have heard him! Also, why did he specifically wait until sunset and not earlier?

The Rambam writes in Hilchot Taaniot that another prayer service should be recited after Mincha close to sunset on fast days. This prayer service is called "Neilah", closing, as if to say, "The gates of mercy are closing down as the sun sets and disappears."

According to the Rambam, this "Neilah" prayer, added on special fast days during times of trouble, can only be said at or close to sunset because this is the time at which the "gates of mercy" in Heaven symbolically close. The battle with Amalek was definitely a time of trouble and that day was probably a fast day, dedicated to repentance and prayer. Since Moshe had spread his hands in true prayer for mercy, the most appropriate time to do so would be just before sunset in the time allotted for the "Neilah" prayer. Therefore his hands were raised until sunset. (Brisk on Chumash.)

Food for Thought
by David Gertler

1) Note the similarities between Az Yashir and Shirat Devorah. Why might the column style, used in both places, be used for Az Yashir? [Hint: Look specifically at the final line of the Shira.] What might its purpose be in Shirat Devorah? [Extra Thought: What is the first song or poem in Tanach? What is its connection to these Shirim?]
2) Why does the Chumash feel it necessary to tell us that the Man was melted by the sun?
3) What special symbolism did the Man have that it was necessary to store it for generations to come? What happened to this jar of Man?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editor: Moshe Glasser
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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