Beshalach 5773 – Gilayon #784


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Parshat Beshalach – Tu BiShevat

And he took six hundred picked chariots

And all the chariots of egypt

(Shemot 14:7)

 

Picked

chariots – Important and chosen chariots.

(Rashbam, ibid., ibid.)

 

And all the chariots of EgyptAnd

from where were the beasts? Should you say they were of the Egyptians, it is

written (Shemot 9), "and all the

livestock of Egypt

died". And should you say, they were of the Israelites, does it not say "And

our livestock will accompany us"! Whose, then, were they? They belonged to

those "who feared the Lord's word" (Ibid

20). Basing himself on this, Rabbi Shimon was wont to say: The best of

the Egyptians – kill; the best of the serpents, smash its

head.

(Rashi, ibid.,

ibid).

 

The best of the gentiles, kill. This does not mean to kill the decent ones,

for our Sages never said there is an obligation to kill the gentiles – but

rather that the infidels and heretics are to be lowered and not be raised (Avoda Zara 26b) but this was never said with

regard to the gentiles, and heaven forbid that one should say that. The

explanation, however, is as follows – in war, should a gentile come upon

you to wage war upon you, and should he fall into your hands – have no pity

upon him – you shall kill him. Such was the case here [in our parasha]

when the Egyptians came upon Israel,

killing them and their progeny, in such case did they say "kill". And

similarly in Parashat Shofetim (Devarim 20:3)

"Hear, O Israel, you are approaching today to do battle with your enemies",

who, should they fall into your hands have no pity upon them, for they, too,

have no pity upon you (Sotah 42a), and

this refers to gentiles who have attacked Israel, and they are attacked by their

enemies. But regarding those gentiles who act decently with Israel, we are

enjoined by the Holy One not to harm them, for we see that the Egyptians, those

who killed Jewish children and imposed severe servitude upon them – because the

Israelites dwelt in their land the Holy One commanded to reward their progeny

with loving kindness, for it is written (Devarim

23:8) "You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner in

his land", all the more so those gentiles who do no harm to Israel,

certainly we are not to repay them with harm, for how can the words of the

Sages contradict this express commandment, which is a verse full of obligation

to do good to whoever has done us good. For the Sages themselves, on the basis

of the verse "You shall not abhor an Egyptian" said (Bava Kama 92b) "Do

not throw stones into the well from which you have drunk", all the more so

those nations which protect Israel

from their enemies. And says Scripture (I Samuel

15:6), "Said Shmuel to the Kenites, Come,

withdraw at once from the Amalekites, that I may not destroy you along with

them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they left Egypt"

– they acted with hessed to those who had shown them hessed. The

meaning for this [the Sages' counsel to kill the best of the gentiles] is no

other than that which we expounded above, i.e., that they are referring to

gentiles who tried to destroy the Jews and fell in their hands – regarding them

they said "The best of the gentiles – kill."

(The MaHaRaL of Prague

Gur Aryeh, Ibid. ibid.)

 

 

 

Revelation, voice, and redemption

Yechiel Greinman

In one of his

books on the weekly parasha, Yeshaayahu Leibowitz says of Parashat

Beshalach that "it is, of course, the parasha of the liberation…

but it is also the parasha of the post-redemption reality". Following

the liberation there is song, but there is also return to the grey day-to-day

routine.

Parashat Beshalach depicts the

great miracle of the splitting of the Reed Sea, where the Jewish people becomes

a nation, but it also describes the nation as having little trust, complaining

repeatedly and even doing so before and following the miracle.

As the story

progresses, we see our teacher Moshe and his leadership undergoing difficult

trials – an omen for the future – as they set out on their wilderness journey.

We see Moshe developing into a leader who is sensitive to his people's needs,

but he also suffers from their demands, as indicated by "…What shall I

do to this people, a while more and they will stone me"!

R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, in his

essay "Redemption, Prayer and the Study of Torah" (in Divrei Hagut V'haaracha) relates

to the significance of the concept of geula, tying it to being a man and

a nation with a voice in human history and with the ability of the individual

and the community to express themselves facing their destiny, including their

ability to pray.

He writes: "Geula is identical […] with mutual communication, with

the revelation of the world, i.e., with the appearance of speech. When a people

leaves the world of silence and enters a world of sound, of speech and song, it

becomes a redeemed people, a nation of free men. In other words, silent life

equals servitude! Life blessed with speech is a life of freedom." (P. 256).

Many are the readers

and commentators who noticed and emphasized the flaw of the Wilderness

Generation, later described as "stiff-necked people", who complained

and tested the Lord and Moshe ten times in the wilderness, and many more times

during our subsequent history.. But we must also see in this an expression of

their freedom and their entry into history after a long period of being silent

slaves, as is beautifully described by R. Soloveitchik's

above-mentioned essay. Our ability (and our right) to protest injustice and

want are expressions of freedom. Silence in the face

of injustice, forgoing the right of speech, the right of protest, constitute

betrayal of the most basic Jewish morality. One who walks in the path of our

father Abraham cannot remain mute – even against heaven, and most certainly against

a government which ignores the basic needs of the citizen and his troubles.

The beginning

of the parasha finds Moshe facing the sea praying on Israel's behalf (see Rashi, Onkalos on 14:15). After he has

silenced them with "The Lord will battle for you, you keep your peace!"

he is answered with words of reproach:

"Why do

you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward." At that moment action

was needed, not only prayer. The Torah hints that Moshe should have related

more respectfully to their cries. On the other hand, when, at Marah "…the

people complained to Moshe, saying, what shall we drink?" Moshe "cried

out to God…" (15:24-2), God does

not silence his prayer, but answers it.

There is also

significant development in the nature of the people's complaints, progressing

from a general 'unaddressed' crying out during the days of servitude in Egypt,

to a focused 'crying out to the Lord' in our parasha. This

progression continues into Parashat Yitro with the creation of more

highly developed system of governance instituted – on Yitro's

advice – to answer the needs of the people and to lighten Moshe's load. The

peak of the progression is reached in the Book of Bemidbar, when the complaint

of Zelaphehad's daughters against the injustice of their

not receiving an inheritance is accepted by Moshe as justified. Thus, we

finally reach validation of the right of the individual (and in this case,

women!) to speak the truth to a leader our teacher Moshe's stature! Certainly today

it is our right, and even our responsibility, to tell our leaders the truth.

There can be nothing farther from Pharaoh's kind of rule over Egypt, which was arrogant and

impervious to the needs of the common man.

R. Soleveitchik quotes from the Book of the Zohar (Raaya

Mehemnah, Parashat Vaera) a description of the essence of servitude as the

absence of voice; the process of Geula, which begins with Moshe's coming

to the slaves, is described as the giving the people a voice: "When Moshe

came, a voice came…"

The Rav explained the Zohar as follows: "Before Moshe

arrived, there was not be found even a single voice. No complaint was lodged,

neither sign nor scream was heard… they were somber slaves, voiceless and

dumb… they were unaware of any need… When Moshe arrived, the voice came to

the world… Moshe, in his defense of the helpless Jew, rehabilitated the

emotions of the desensitized slaves. Suddenly they became aware that all the

pain, the sorrow, the degradation and the brutality, all the greediness and the

lack of tolerance between men, – that all these are evil. This recognition

brought in its wake not only sharp pain, but also recognition of the suffering.

With the suffering came the strong protest, the scream, the

soundless question, the speechless demand for justice and retribution" (p. 259).

R. Soloveitchik's description of the beginning of the geula

process in Egypt by way of discovery of the voice and the ability to cry out

and to protest expresses sensitivity to the condition of oppressed people and to

their strong need for expression of their suffering as a step towards

liberating awareness, and ultimately to liberation itself. The condition of the

Jewish people in our parasha is an intermediate stage prior to the

receiving of the Torah. Only with the receiving of the Torah is there completion

of the divine role in the geula process which began in Egypt and continued in the desert after the crossing

of the Reed Sea. The continuation of the geula

in this world depends upon the people and its behavior.

This year Parashat Beshalach is read on Tu BiShevat, 15th

of Shevat, the New Year for the Trees, also the day of the establishment of the

Knesset. This article will appear on the Shabbat following the Knesset

elections, after we will have been given public stage for our complaints and

the possibility to choose new leadership for the State of Israel. My prayer is

that our freshly-elected government will prove worthy, and that the citizens'

grievances will be heard. Our parasha teaches that the Jewish nation had

a proper leader who was attuned to the nation's complaints and acted in

accordance with their wilderness needs, who turned to

God when he heard them cry for water and food. In my opinion, proper leadership

is one that is sensitive to the people's needs and misery, even after the

elections. This includes, of course, the needs of the stranger, the orphan and

the widow! A nation devoid of this sensitivity cannot claim to be a Jewish

nation. Only one who is responsive to the cries of the indigent and the needs

of people – all people – deserves to lead the Jewish people and the State of

Israel today.

Note:

I am thankful to my wife, Dvora, and to my havruta, Rabbi Mordchai

Goldberg, for their ideas in preparing this article.

Rabbi

Yechiel Greinman is

director of the Department for Civil Rights in the Territories, Shomrei

Mishpat, Rabbis for Human Rights

 

 

True

Faith Is Not Connected To Miracles

… From

"Beshalach" we learn a great lesson:

The miracle, the revelation, and also man's elevation to poetry as a result of

a miracle of revelation – all this is but a passing episode which has no

continuing influence. What endures is not the poetry of life, but rather the

prose of life. In the framework of the prose of life – "and they

complained" "and they complained" "and they

complained" and "no water to drink" and "the bread is

spoiled" and "is the Lord in our midst?" – in

this framework Torah is given to Israel: "There He imposed

law and judgment for them," there was instituted the Shabbat, the

central institution of Jewish existence according to the Torah…

Faith is not bestowed from without;

it cannot be given from without. It can only sprout from man's effort, from his

resolution and his decision.

(From Y. LeibowitzRemarks on the Parasha of the Week, pp. 48-49)

 

"The Holy One, Blessed Be

He, Does Not Have His Name Mentioned Along With Curses"

"And Devorah sang(Judges 5:1 – from the Haftara of Parashat Beshalach)

"To the Lord" is not mentioned, as it is in the Song of

the Sea and in the Song of David,

for it is written [in Devorah's song] "Curse Meroz! said the angel of the Lord, Bitterly curse its

inhabitants" and Barak ostracized Meroz

with four hundred shofarot (Bavli, Moed

Kattan 16a), and as our Sages taught (Bereishit Rabba 3:6) "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, does

not have His name mentioned along with curses". Yet more, the Divine

Presence left her, as per in the words of Resh Lakish (Pesahim 66b) "Therefore it is not written

"this song to the Lord".

(Meshech Hochma, Shemot 17:8)

 

The difference between mitzvoth and character traits (middot), and social convention (nimmusim)

Study of Torah

policy reveals that the punishments meted out for violation

of 'active' mitzvot (mitvot

maasiyot) – such as idolatry – are karet [extermination as a Divine

punishment], stoning and other forms of death, and lashes. Such is not the case

with offenses involving social civility and character – such as contention,

defamation, theft; these are never punished by flogging because they are (in

the category) of "lav ha-nitan le-tashlumim" [a Biblical prohibition, which is

resolved by monetary reparation] or "lav

she-eyn bo maasah" [a

Biblical transgression which does not involve a physical act]. This applies

only when an individual transgresses. When a community is corrupt, the opposite

holds true – so we learn in the Yerushalmi, Peah:

"In David's generation, all were tzaddikim, righteous people, but because

there were informers among them, there were

casualties in battle; in Ahab's generation there were many idolaters, but

because there were no informers, they would go down to do battle and win.

Regarding a community corrupt with idolatry and sexual immorality, it is

written "Which dwells with them in the midst of their impurities".

But (regarding a community marked by) social transgressions,

low character, slander and controversy, it is written "Exalt yourself

over the heavens" – as though to say "Remove your presence from

them." They went further and said that in the times of the first Temple, Jews engaged in idolatry and sexual immorality

(and bloodshed); in the second Temple

they engaged in torah and mitzvot, (and righteous

deeds, so why was it destroyed?) Because of baseless hatred

(to teach that baseless hatred is the equivalent of the sins – idolatry, sexual

immorality, and bloodshed). The Talmud asks, "Who are the greater

[the Jews of the First Temple or of the Second)" "Look at the Temple; it returned to the

(Jews of the) first, but not to the (Jews of the) second". Thus we see

that a community corrupted by anti-social behavior is worse than a community

corrupted by (violation of) mitzvot. Therefore did

Rabbi Yochanan say (Sanhedrin108a) Come and see how

great the power of corruption is. The generation of the Deluge transgressed all

mitzvot, but they were not sentenced to annihilation

until they began to steal, as is written (Bereishit

6:13): "An end of all

flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with wrongdoing". Sexual offenses are judged as communal

offenses, and He had mercy on them. But this cannot be so with social offenses.

Therefore, punishment for Sabbath desecration is delayed; since the phenomenon

is so widespread, it is a

community offence. Even with

regard to idolatry the Sifri teaches "and the soul will be cut off" – but not the community. But

because the social norms have been breached, people with swords and arrows go

to plunder and steal, and their characters have become corrupt because they are

like beasts of prey, God will take revenge without delay.

(Meshekh Hokhma,

Shmot 14:29)

 

The Planting of Trees Connects

Humans With Eternity

When you

enter the Land and you shall plant [any tree for food] (Vayikra 19: 23). The

Holy One Blessed be He said to Israel:

"Even though you find it full of all good things, do not say, 'Let us sit

[idly] and not plant.' Rather, take care to plant, for it says, and you

shall plant any tree for food. Just as you entered and found trees which

others had planted, you too shall plant for your children. A person should not

say, "I am old! How many years I have lived! Why should I stand here

tiring myself out for others? Tomorrow I will already be dead!" Solomon

said: He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts

eternity [ha-olam] in their mind (Kohellet 3: 11).

It is written ha-elim, without the

letter vav. If the Holy One Blessed be He

did not hide (he'elim) thoughts of death from the

mind of man, a person would neither build nor plant, for he would say, "Tomorrow I die. Why do I stand here and tire myself for

others?" That is why God hides the day of death from the hearts of human

beings, in order that people build. If he is worthy, it [the building] shall be

for him [who builds it]. If he is not worthy, it shall be for others.

(Midrash TanhumahKedoshim 8)

 

With the first knesset

(in honor of the knesset's birthday on tu bi'shevat)

Natan

Alterman

Again it will be a

day of spring, a day of change and wonders.

The scent of mint

will play in the air.

And

delegates, hopping over puddles.

Will go,

My friend,

To

the parliament.

 

They will sit, as

usual, and hear the speech

(Session number one

thousand – and one thousand – and seven)…

Some will doze a brief light nap,

Others

Will snooze a deep deep sleep

 

The speaker will

lecture on the export of beans

Or on a tax on

household cats…

(History –

Has

also her secular hours

For knitting,

For

darning stockings).

 

And then, through

opened window a sparrow

Will enter the

Knesset hall,

Will tap light steps

on the chairman's gavel,

Almost upsetting the

inkwell…

 

The delegates' sight

will accompany her flight,

They will know: She's

a delegate – invited,

From that powerful wind

of that night of Shevat

That

you were born, Founding Assembly.

 

Not forever will you

live in the brightness of lightening…

No! For you too the

numbing reality

Of week-days and

napping and pointless debate,

Sans l' orchestra,

without the two thousand years…

 

Your day, Assembly,

will be gnawed by routine,

Already whetted fangs

lie in wait –

The office and the

paper

Awaiting their cradle

Of

eras and flags and idea.

 

But the unhallowed is

good, and fine the travail.

If not for a second they

silence

Like a stubborn, muffled

heart, the sound of the drum

That thundered

When the flag was

raised!

 

Ancient the name you

received, after the "Knesset" of yore.

But like a singing

trumpet

Another name breaks forth

(no offense on your part…)

The alien "Founding

Assembly".

 

For not only are you

daughter of the Knesset of old

Not just hers!… From treetop to trunk

You are whipped by

the storm of Le Convent in France

Sounding tones of La

Marseilles!

 

You are as beautiful

as the daughters-of-liberty

Forever rising as a

monument,

From the Roman Forum

during the siege

To

the assembly of the "Magna Carta."

 

May you always

remember the days of lightening

When you arose, seen

by the world!

May exhausting routine

not abate your vigor

May your youth

Overcome all your

papers!

 

Midst us and all nations let it be known

That despite the

years and seniority

There will stand in

your gates, untarnished by rust,

The

shining sword of judgment and justice.

 

And in times of trial

– it will light a spark

And you will rise up

to speak your word

Your eyes towards justice

and integrity,

Not towards the

balcony's applause!

 

So! Repeatedly rising

to the task of the times

Elbows exposed, like

a laundress…

And through some

opened window a sparrow

Will enter the

Knesset hall

 

The delegates' sight

will accompany her flight

Many unaware that to here

She has directly come

from that evening in Shevat

That once stormed

fiercely above us.

 

 

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