Monday, January 20, 2014

Yitro 5774

The Torah Portion of "Yitro"   

"And Yitro heard..." (Shemot 18:1)

Rashi says that Yitro was called by seven names, and tells us that the reason why he was called by the name "Yeter" (which is word which implies something additional) is because one section of the Torah was added because of him: "And you shall see..." (Shemot 18:21).  It has been asked, why does Rashi cite only "And you shall see..." (Shemot 18:21); aren't the words of Yitro also recorded in several verses prior to that?  And the explanation is that the main point is the advice that Yitro gave to Moshe (to appoint judges to assist him), and what that was written before that were only questions to Moshe, such as (Shemot 18:14): "Why are you sitting alone?"

"And Yitro heard..." (Shemot 18:1) (in Hebrew: "Vayishma Yitro")

Rashi explains, and what was the report that he heard and came?  The splitting of the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf) and the war against Amalek.  The Hebrew word "Vayishma" (which means "And he heard")  is spelled with the letters: Vuv Yud Shin Mem Ayin.  These letters are Roshei Teivot (initial letters) for the words: "Sh'ma M'ilchemet A'malek V'kriat Y'am Suf, which means "He heard the war of Amalek and the splitting of the Sea (of Reeds).  And it is necessary to explain, why was it precisely these two miracles which caused Yitro to come?  But the answer is, that after there were so many miracles for Israel and the whole world knew about it, like what the Sages said on the verse "and the waters split" (Shemot 14:21), that all the waters in the world split (and not just Yam Suf), and in spite of all that, Amalek had the brazenness to come and wage war with Israel.  Therefore, Yitro said, if there is so much evil in the nations (such as Amalek that still wanted to wage war against Israel after all those miracles), it is necessary to separate from them, and that is the explanation of "he heard and came".

"And her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom, for he had said, 'I was a sojourner in a strange land'. and the name of  (the other) one was Eliezer, 'for the G-d of my father came to my aid and saved me from the sword of Pharoah'" (Shemot 18:3-4)

Apparently, it would have been appropriate for the first son to be called Eliezer, because the miracle of the sword of Pharoah had already happened before Moshe came to Midian, so why did he give the name "Eliezer" only when he had his second son? And in addition, what kind of benefit was it to give a name to a son based on the concept that "I was a sojourner in a strange land"?  But the explanation is that at the time that Moshe came to Yitro, Yitro had not yet converted to Judaism, and Moshe was afraid that they (he and his family) might learn from Yitro's deeds.  Therefore Moshe made haste to call his first son Gershom, for he said "I was a sojourner", for by means of this Moshe requested to establish that here in the land (of Midian) he is only in situation of being a sojourner in a strange land, and that it is not a place which is appropriate for serving Hashem.  And there are those that say that behold, it is written in the Mechilta that Yitro said to Moshe that he is giving him his daughter Tzippora on condition that his first son participate in Avodah Zara (idol worship), and that was before Yitro converted to Judaism, and Moshe agreed with him.  And there are those that question this, because how is it possible that he agreed?  And the Baal HaTurim gives an explanatiopn that Moshe knew that in the end he would certainly cause Yitro to return to the proper path and he would change his opinion.   And since Moshe had agreed with Yitro (about the condition that this son would participate in idol worship), he didn't want to give the name "Eliezer" (which has a reference to G-d) to the first son. 

"...the name of one was Gershom...and the name of one was Eliezer..." (Shemot 18:3-4)

It has been asked, why is it written the second time also "and the name of one", rather than saying "and the name of the second"?   And the explanation that the Sages say it that when Moshe went up to the Heavens he heard the Holy One Blessed Be He say "Rabbi Eliezer My son says that the Red Heifer is at the age of two years", and Moshe said -- if only that would be a descendent of mine!  And that was Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol who descended from Eliezer (Moshe's son).  And that was the meaning of the verse saying "and the name of one was Eliezer", that is, it was a reference to the one that was special, and this is Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol who was the teacher of Rebbe Akiva.

"And Yitro rejoiced..." (Shemot 18:9) 

The explanation is that he was happy, and according to the Midrash the explanation is that his flesh became prickly and he developed gooseflesh, because he was aggrieved over the destruction of Egypt. (from Rashi)  [Translator's Note: The basis of Rashi's explanation is that the word in Hebrew  "Vayichad" can be simply translated as "rejoiced", but it also has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for "prickly".] The Mashgiach HaRav HaTzaddik R' Yechezkel Levenshtein said to the students at the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai during the frightful days of the Holocaust, that we see from this verse that it is natural that when someone hears of the sufferings of his people, even if he is disconnected from them for ten generations, he will nevetheless have his flesh become prickly.  And if we currently hear about the sufferings of our fellow Jews and we don't feel anything and our flesh does not become prickly, this must only be because our sins and transgressions have caused our hearts have become stupid and our nature has changed (for the worse).  Another explanation is that Yitro thought he was coming to the desert to live a life of sorrow and suffering in order to bring himself to the acceptance of the Torah.  Now that he came to the desert and saw that they had everything good, he was aggrieved because the Torah was not being received in suffering, because the Sages say that we are given reward for one Mitzvah done in suffering more than for a hundred Mitzvot that are done easily. 

Yitro's Advice

Yitro's advice was that there would be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. There were 600 rulers of thousands, 6,000 rulers of hundreds, 12,000 rulers of fifties and 60,000 rulers of tens.   The sum total of all the judges was 78,600.  The judges needed to have four qualities: that they would be men of strength (that is, they needed to be wealthy), men with fear of Heaven, men of truth, and that they would hate financial gain (that is, that they would find bribery repugnant).

"...every great matter they shall bring to you..." (Shemot 18:22)

Why was it stated in the advice of Yitro to Moshe that "every great matter they shall bring to you..." (Shemot 18:22), and afterwards when Moshe chose the judges it was stated: "the dificult matter they will bring to Moshe" (Shemot 18:26)?    And the explanation is that Yitro who was a convert to Judaism thought that a legal Torah case involving a lot of money needed to be brought to a greater judge, which is how it is done by the other nations.  Moshe said to him that for Israel, that is not the case; a judgement involving a small amount is the same as a judgment involving a larger amount. If a case is complicated and difficult, even if it only involves a small amount, it needs to be brought before a greater judge; and a judgment of a simple case, even if it involves a lot of money, the smaller judges can decide it. 

"They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness); and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2)  

There are 3 preparations for receiving the Torah: 1) "They journeyed from Rephidim...',  means that they left the trait of having weakness of hands, which is laziness. [Translator's Note: The basis for this interpretation is that although the word Rephidim is a place name, it is also similar to the Hebrew word "Refayon", which means weakness.] 2) "...and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness)", each one needs to regard himself as if he is a desert (or wilderness) in order to abandon his physical lusts and to humble himself. 3) "...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain", means that all of Israel were together in unity. [Translator's Note:  The basis for this is that the singular verb is used for encamped, and as Rashi interprets it: "as one man, with one heart".]  (from the Ohr HaChaim)

"...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2) 

The word for encamped  in Hebrew ["vayichan"] is similar to the word for "grace" or "favor" in Hebrew ["chein"].  And "opposite the mountain" is a hint about opposing the Evil Inclination.  The Sages say that the Evil Inclination is similar to a mountain, and if everyone will find favor (or grace) in the eyes of his fellow, that is the greatest weapon we can have against the mountain which is the Evil Inclination.  

"So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)

The "house of Yaakov" refers to the women, and the "children of Israel" refers to the men.  It is written in the Midrash, why did the giving of the Torah begin with the women?  Because the commandment about the Tree of Knowledge was said by Hashem to Adam, so that he would tell Chava, and that commandment ended up being broken.  Therefore in the giving of the Torah Hashem said "I will start to tell the women first" and that will be successful.

"So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)

The Maharsha explains, that "So shall you say to the house of Yaakov" refers to the women, "and tell to the children of Israel" -- they, the women, will tell to the children of Israel who are the males, because it is the way of the woman to be present all day in the home and she educates the children of Israel when they are little.

"...Go to the people and you will sanctify them today and tomorrow" (Shemot 19:10)

The Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination), when he sees that someone is beginning to serve Hashem, he tells him to begin from tomorrow.  And the advice for dealing with this is to answer the Yetzer Hara that you agree with him, on the condition that "you will sanctify ... today and tomorrow", also today and also tomorrow.  And regarding Amalek, it is written, "go out to fight with Amalek, tomorrow" (Shemot 17:9), for it is known that Amalek represents the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination); you should fight with him on what that he tells you all the time to begin tomorrow.

"All of Israel are guarantors [in Hebrew "aravin"] one for another".  (Masechet Shavuot 39a)

There is an explanation that each one needs to be sweet to the other one, because although the Hebrew word "aravin" means guarantors (of loans) it is also is similar to a word in Hebrew which means sweetness.

"And G-d spoke all these words, saying" (Shemot 20:1)

Rashi explains that the word "saying" means that on every single one of the statements of the Ten Commandments, Israel said "yes" to a positive commandment and "no" to a negative commandment.  But, "I am Hashem your G-d ..." and "You shall have no other gods..." (Shemot 20:2-3) were said simultaneously (according to the Zohar Chadash at the end of the Torah Portion of Yitro).  This is what is meant when it says in the Tehillim (62:12): "G-d spoke one thing, I heard  two (Gematriot of Rav Y. HaChassid on the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan). And behold, at the time that the children of Israel heard the first two Commandments simultaneously, they were frightened and confused and didn't know what to answer.  For if they would say "yes", it would be possible to misunderstand their words and think that G-d forbid they were saying "yes" on the prohibition of "You shall have no other gods before Me", and if they would say "no" it would be possible to misunderstand their words and think that they said "no" to the statement "I am Hashem your G-d...", and that they don't want to accept the Kingship and Oneness of His Blessed Name, G-d forbid.  And regarding this problem they took advice from within their inner souls, and they all shouted as one voice "Hashem is Our G-d Hashem is One", and this statement was a good answer for both of the Commandments.  For as is known, one needs to have intention at the time of reading the first verse of Sh'ma, "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad"  (Hear Oh Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One).   When one says "Hashem Elokeinu" ("Hashem is Our G-d"), that is a reference to the first  of the Ten Commandments, "I am Hashem your G-d".  When one says "Hashem Echad" ("Hashem is One"), that is a reference to the Second of the Ten Commandments, "You shall have no other gods...".  And this is what is hinted at when we say in the Zemirot (Songs) for Shabbat, "And everyone came in a covenant together, we will do and we will hear, were said in unity and they began and answered "Hashem is One".  (from the Rav Sholom of Belz, may his memory protect us)

"Do not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain.." (Shemot 20:7)

It is appropriate to avoid swearing even about something that is true. The Hebrew word for "in vain" is L''shav, which is spelled Lamed Shin Vuv Aleph.  These letters are the Roshei Teivot (first letters) of the words in the Hebrew phrase "L'o Sh'eker V'lo E'met", which means "Not Falsehood and Not Truth".

"You shall not covet your fellow man's house...nor anything that belongs to your fellow man" (Shemot 20:14) 

It can be asked, why was it stated "your fellow man's house", isn't that included in "anything that belongs to your fellow man?"  And the answer that is given (tongue in cheek) is that if a person covets what another has because he has a nice house or other nice things,  he is told to take into account that it's a package deal and if you get everything that belongs to your fellow man that also includes all the sorrows, obligations, and other difficulties.

The Torah Portion  of Yitro has 72 verses. The Torah Portion of Yitro has within it 3 positive commandments, 14 negative commandments.The Haftorah is "B'sh'nat Mot Hamelech Uziahu" (Yeshayahu 6)

We say Borchi Nafshi.

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Mishpatim 5774

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" 

"And these are the judgments (or ordinances) which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1)  

In Hebrew this verse reads: "V'aileh hamishpatim asher tasim lifnaihem", and the Hebrew letters of each word in this verse form the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase which teaches us something about the judicial process.  From  the letters of "V'aileh", we get: "A person is required to investigate the legal decision".  From "hamishpatim", we get: ""The judge is commanded to make a compromise before holding a trial";  from "asher": "if both sides want".  From "tasim": "Listen to both of them speaking, together (that is, don't hear one side of the case without the other side being present)". From "lifnaihem": "Don't favor the person who is a wealthy philanthropist; act as a stranger to him".  (from Baal Haturim)

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, just as the preceding (laws were given) at Sinai, so these (were given) at Sinai. The Chidushai Harim explains that these legal ordinances make logical sense, and we could have arrived at them from our own understanding (even if they hadn't been given at Sinai).  Therefore, the Torah tells us that all the laws were given at Sinai, because we need to focus on the fact that we are following these laws because they are the will of Hashem, even though we could have arrived at them from our own understanding.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

It is written in the Zohar that this refers to the arrangement of reincarnations (Gilgulim).  The explanation is that when one person owes a debt to another person and doesn't return it, when he dies he is reincarnated as a horse or donkey, and the other person purchases him. In that way the person returns the debt to the other person.  There was a story in Jerusalem that there was a man who had a donkey that worked for him much more than was usual.  He went and asked a Tzadik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzadik told him that someone remained financially indebted to him and the donkey was his reincarnation, and if he would say to him "You are pardoned", the donkey would stop doing that.  And so it was; he told the donkey "You are pardoned",  and the donkey died immediately.  There is also a hint about this in the verse "For the horse of Pharaoh came..." Shemot (15:19), that he becomes reincarnated as a horse in order to pay off a debt.  The word Pharoah in Hebrew is similar to the word for repayment.

"...which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, like a table which is set and prepared for eating before a person -- the meaning of this is that one should explain matters clearly to a student.. HaRav HaGaon R' Chaim Yehuda Yakovzon ztz"l explained this by way of analogy to a pharmacy.  In truth, the shelves of a pharmacy are full of medications, but the medicines are not given out without a reason.  They are only given to patients who need the medications.  Similarly, Hashem told Moshe, until now we learned all kinds of essential Mitzvot, such as circumcision, Shabbat, and other similar Mitzvot.  But this section of the Torah you only need to set before them, so that they will be prepared if occasionally it is necessary to administer a punishment.  But it would be better if they didn't need to use these remedies at all.

"...and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl."  (Shemot 21:5)

Why does he bore him through his ear with an awl?  The word for awl in Hebrew is "Martzeiya" and this has the Gematria (numerical value of the letters) of 400.  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, I took you out from a slavery of 400 years and I said that "For to Me are the children of Israel servants" (Vayikra 25:55), and this person went and acquired a master for himself; therefore he will be struck with an awl. The reason that the servant doesn't have his ear bored through when he begins his servitude, and only when he has served for six years, can be explained by way a parable which is brought in the beginning of Shaarei Teshuva by Rabeinu Yonah: There were two men who were in prison, and one of them made an underground tunnel and escaped while the second one remained behind.  They began to punish the one who didn't flee with a severe beating, and he said to them, "Because I behaved nicely and didn't flee, do I deserve to be punished?"  They answered him, "Here this is a prison and not a nursing home, and therefore your friend who felt the suffering and punishment searched for strategies in order to escape.  But since you don't feel any suffering in being here,  it's appropriate that we should now give you suffering and punishment."  Similarly, when the servant begins his servitude, there is no reason to bore his ear, but when he wants to remain after six years it's a sign that he doesn't feel the suffering of being a servant, and because of this he deserves to have his ear bored.

"...and  he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

In Hebrew this is written as "V'rapo  yirapeh"; the root of the word for "heal" is repeated (twice).  This is a hint that when one goes to a doctor, it is sometimes necessary to go repeatedly until one becomes healthy.  But the Holy One Blessed Be He says, "I am Hashem Your Healer (or Doctor)" (Shemot 15:26), and here the root for the word "heal" is only written once.  Hashem can heal us all at once.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed."  (Shemot 21:19) 

There is a dot in the Hebrew letter "Pay" within the Hebrew words "V'rapo yirapeh", which is a hint that sometimes when we go to a doctor for healing, there is still some remnant of the illness which continues to leave its mark upon us.  But regarding the Holy One Blessed Be He, it is written "Rofecha" (without a dot, so the Hebrew letter is "Fay" instead of "Pay").  When He heals us, no remnant of the illness remains.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

From this verse, permission is given to the doctor to heal.  Someone once came to a Tzadik and told him that he had a sick person in his household and that the doctors had despaired of the possibility of healing him.  The Tzadik answered him that the Sages say that the doctor has permission to heal but not to despair (or cause others to despair).  The Admor of Kotzk ztz"l added, that there is a hint to this in the phrase "despair without knowledge" (in Hebrew "Ye'ush shelo m'da'at", referring to a discussion in Baba Metzia about whether one is required to return a lost object if the person doesn't yet know he lost it, but would have despaired of finding it if he knew he lost it). If someone has despaired, it's a sign that he doesn't have knowledge. 

"If you will persecute him -- for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry"  (Shemot 22:22)

The Gr"a asks why is it written "for if he will cry out", and it's not written " and he will cry out"?  And he explains that if one person caused suffering to his friend, such as in the case of  what Penina did to Chana -- and her intention was for the sake of Heaven because she wanted Chana to pray and cry out to Hashem -- also this is not a good thing.  And that is the meaning of "for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry".  (That is, if you are persecuting him in order to get him to pray, even though your intention is good like Penina's was when she persecuted Chana, that's still not a good thing to do.)

"If you will lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you..." (Shemot 22:24)

One explanation is that even if the "poor person is with you", that is, even if you are also poor, in spite of that, help him. And there are those who explain the phrase "to the poor person who is with you", that you should not lend to the poor person publicly but only privately, and that is the meaning of "with you" -- privately, so that he won't be embarassed.  And there are those who explain that the  Hebrew word for "lend" (Talveh) is related linguistically to the Hebrew word "Levaya" (which means "accompany", and also refers to the funeral procession in which people accompany the deceased to his burial plot).  What are the things which accompany a person to the Next World?  The answer is -- money, that is to say, the Mitzvot such as Tzedakah (charity) that the person does with the money; that accompanies the person to the Next World.  And that is the explanation of the words "with you" -- that the money  which you lend "accompanies" you in the Future.

"....and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat; you shall throw it to the dog." (Shemot 22:30)

Rashi says that the dog receives a reward because he fulfilled the verse "...a dog will not sharpen its tongue..." (Shemot 11:7) at the time of the Jewish people leaving Egypt.  The Da'at Zekainim says an additional explanation, that since the dog guards your flocks and your house, and is even willing to give up his life for your sake, if so, out of gratitude you should give him to eat the flesh which has been torn.  And there are those who explain why the dog is called "Kelev" in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word "Kelev" can be thought of as a compound word made up of two other Hebrew words, "Kol"  (which means "all") and "Lev" (which means "heart"). The dog is "all heart" and totally dedicates himself to the master of the house.

"People of holiness shall you be unto Me; and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat..."  (Shemot 22:30)

If you will behave in a holy way, then Hashem will guard you from forbidden foods.

"...and you shall not respond over a dispute..." (Shemot 23:2) 

Rashi says that you should not disagree with the head of the Sanhedrin.  And in the explanation of Rabenu Yonah it is written that you shouldn't answer during a disagreement when others are quarreling with you, but you should just keep quiet.

"If you see your enemy's donkey lying under his burden..." (Shemot 23:5)

The simple explanation is that the donkey is lying under the burden, and the teachers of Mussar (Ethics) explain that this is hinting at the burden of the donkey's owner.  That is to say, even if this man causes you suffering and is always burdensome to you, even so, ignore that and help him.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

We find the language of "distance yourself" only in regards to falsehood, because we need to be especially careful about falsehood.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

It is written that "A speaker of falsehoods will not be established before Hashem".  A Tzadik  explained, that from one statement of falsehood one becomes distanced from the Holy One Blessed Be He, and that is the explanation of  "distance yourself" -- that is, you will distance yourself from the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1).  

The first word of this verse in Hebrew is V'aileh, and the Hebrew letters of this word form the initial letters of the words "La'yehudim Hayta Ora V'Simcha" (in English -- "And the Jews had light and joy") from Megillat Esther 8:16.  This is a hint to the beginning of the month of Adar.

M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha (When Adar enters, we increase in happiness)

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments.  The Haftorah is "Hadavar Asher Haya El Yirmiyahu" (Yirmiya Chapter 34)

This is Shabbat Mevorchim for Adar Rishon.  Rosh Chodesh is on Friday and Shabbat.  The Molad: Lail Shishi, at the hour 2:26, with 7 Chalakim.

We say Borchi Nafshi.

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Beshalach 5774

The Torah Portion of "Beshalach"

"...And Hashem did not lead them by the way of the land..." (Shemot 13:17).  

Hashem did not lead Israel according to the natural way of the world, in which the drinking water arrives from above and the food arrives from below, but in the desert it was reversed; food came from above (the manna) and drinking water came from below (Miriam's well).

"...And the children of Israel were armed..." (Shemot 13:18).  

[Translator's Note: The word "armed" in Hebrew has the same root letters as the word "five".] Rashi explains that one out of five came out and the rest died in the plague of darkness, and the Targum Yonatan explains that each one had five children.  The B'air Yosef asks, how is it possible that each one had exactly five children? He explains that since four out of five died in the plague of darkness and those that remained accepted upon themselves the responsibility to care for the orphans of the 4/5 that died, therefore each one had five families.  In the merit of this kindness there were miracles done for them, and the Tirgum Yerushalmi adds that it was in the merit of good deeds.  Also there is a verse that says "and I remembered for you the kindness of your youth".

"...And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him..." (Shemot 13:19)  

The Sages say regarding Moshe "...And a wise heart will take Mitzvot...", for everyone was busy with silver and gold while Moshe was busy with the bones of Yosef.  The Sages say: "After a man's death silver and gold do not accompany him, only Torah and good deeds".  That is what is meant by saying that he "took the bones of Yosef with him'", because to the upper realms [in the Next World] we take only Mitzvot. (from Kli Yakar)

"...Before Baal Tzefon..." (Shemot 14:2) 

The Daat Zekainim asks how is it that Hashem said to return and gave them a road-mark to do so before Baal Tzefon?  Isn't it forbidden to use a location of idol worship as a road-mark, as it says "...And you shall not mention the names of other gods"?  His answer is, that this was because it was before the giving of the Torah.

"...And Pharoah said to the children of Israel..." (Shemot 14:3) 


Rashi explains that this means "...And Pharoah said about the children of Israel".  Another explanation is given by  the Tirgum Yonatan, who says that Pharoah spoke to Datan and Aviram who remained in Egypt.  It is asked, if they were wicked [and therefore wanted to stay in Egypt], shouldn't they have died in the plague of darkness?  The answer is, they in truth did want to leave  Egypt, and therefore didn't die in the plague of darkness.  But they thought that since it was only for three days, it wasn't worthwhile to go out and afterwards to return.  The secret that the Jews were going out and not returning was not told to them since they were  Malshinim (Slanderers) who would have told Pharoah.

"...And Egypt will know that I am Hashem..." (Shemot 14:4)  

The Gaon HaRav A.M. Shach ztzvk"l explains, for how much time did Egypt know Hashem?  For just a moment before death, for until the very last moment they wanted to make war against Israel.  From this we see how significant is the one moment that "they knew Hashem", for all the miracles and wonders were worthwhile just so that the Egyptians would know Hashem for one moment.  All the moreso, the miracles and wonders were worthwhile for the sake of the children of Israel, who were meant to serve Hashem for all time [and not just for one moment].

"And Pharoah drew close..." (Shemot 14:10)  

[Translator's Note: The word for "drew close" in Hebrew is "hikriv", which can also be translated as "to bring a sacrifice".] There are three explanations: 1) Pharoah went first to the war, 2) Pharoah offered a sacrifice to Ba'al Tzefon,  and 3) Pharoah brought the Jews close to our Father in Heaven, since because of him Israel repented (did Teshuvah).

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14)  

When they were leaving Egypt, why did the Jews need merits such as the blood of the Passover offering and the blood of circumcision, and here [at the splitting of the sea] it was said to them "you shall remain silent"? The explanation is that Hashem knew beforehand that here they would risk their lives in complete devotion to Hashem (Mesirut Nefesh), for example in the case of Nachshon [who entered the sea before it split], and where there is complete devotion to Hashem that is the greatest of all merits. (from Avnei Nezer)  Similarly, it is asked, why didn't they build the Temple on Har Sinai where the Torah was given? The answer is that Har Hamoriah was a place where a Jew (Yitzchak) exposed his neck to be slaughtered for  Hashem's honor, and therefore it was suitable to build the Temple there, since there is no other place which has a greater honor than that.

Before Kriat Yam Suf (the splitting of the Reed Sea)

Before the splitting of the sea at Yam Suf the children of Israel were divided into four groups. One group said we should shout against the Egyptians; the second said we should make war against them; the third said we should return to Egypt; and the fourth said we should fall into the sea, for it is preferable to die in the sea rather than dying by the sword.  Moshe answered to each of the four groups in an appropriate way.  To the group that said we should fall into the sea, he said " not be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of Hashem..." (Shemot 14:13).  To the group that said we should return to Egypt he said "...for whereas you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall not see them ever again" (Shemot 14:13).  To the group which said to fight with the Egyptians, he said "Hashem will fight for you..." (Shemot 14:14).  To the group which said we should shout against them, he said "...and you shall remain silent" (Shemot 14:14).  (from Yonatan been Uziel)

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14) 

If Israel will guard themselves not to speak in the Bait Haknesset and remain silent, then the Holy One Blessed Be He will fight for them. (from the Zohar Hakodesh)

"...and the waters were split." (Shemot 14:21)  

Rashi says all the waters in the world were split, and on a simple level this was in order to publicize the miracles throughout all the world.  There are those that explain that this was in order to cause the Egyptians to err.  Pharoah was a great king and had many wise counselors, so how could it be that they saw the waters splitting for Israel and were not afraid to enter?  If they were seeing an open miracle for Israel how could they think that they could be saved?  The answer is, that they saw that all the waters in the world were being split, and they said that this was not connected to Israel but was just a natural event.   This is what the Targum means when it translates "the waters were piled up"  (Shemot 15:8) as "the waters were intelligent"; the waters did something intelligent and cunning in order to cause Pharoah to err.  But it can be asked, how did the waters do something that they weren't commanded to do?  And also, why did the Egyptians deserve a punishment?  Weren't they fulfilling the command of Hashem who said to Avraham "and they will enslave them and they will oppress them"? (Braishit 15:13) However, it is because the Egyptians went beyond  the decree of enslavement.  Hashem didn't tell them to throw the boys into the Nile river, or to put the children into the walls.  If so, the waters said, just as the Egyptians went beyond Hashem's decree, we also will go beyond what Hashem decreed.  Also, with regards to the plague of darkness it says in the Psalms that "He sent darkness and it became dark", and the Sages explained, it became even more dark, "and they [the forces that increased the darkness] didn't rebel against His word".  Why wasn't it considered a rebellion?  Just as the Egyptians went beyond the  decree of slavery, so it was permissible for the darkness to increase itself. (from B'air Yosef)

"...and the water was a wall for them..."  (Shemot 14:22 and Shemot 14:29)

One time the word for "wall" in Hebrew is written "Choma" (in the verse Shemot 14:22 it is spelled fully, Chet-Vuv-Mem-Hey), containing the letter "Vuv",  and a second time it is written "Choma" (in the verse Shemot 14:29 it is spelled Chet-Mem-Hey), without the letter "Vuv", so even though it is still pronounced "Choma", it visually looks like the Hebrew word "Chayma", which means "anger" in English.  The Sages say that the tribe of Dan carried the idol of Micah with them, and because of that it is written "Chayma" (anger).  Another explanation of why the word for wall is written two different ways, is that the first group entered into the sea and after that it became dry land, as it is written "and the children of Israel came within the sea on dry land" (Shemot 14:22), and they risked their lives with complete devotion to Hashem (Mesirut Nefesh), and regarding that group the word for wall is written "Choma" with a "Vuv".  And afterwards, the second group entered the water, and regarding them it is written "and the children of Israel walked on the dry land in the midst of the sea" (Shemot 14:29), since they waited until it was dry and afterwards entered the water, and regarding them the word for wall is written like "Chayma" without a "Vuv", which indicates that there was "anger" because they didn't risk their lives to devote themselves to Hashem. (from the Gr"a)

"The sea saw and fled..." (Tehillim 114:3)

What did it see?  The coffin of Yosef.  Also by Yosef it is written "...and he fled outside." (Breisheet 39:13)  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, the sea will flee before someone who fled from sinning. (from Midrash Tehillim)

"...And Israel saw the great hand..." (Shemot 14:31)  

What caused Nachshon to hurry and enter the water?  "The great hand" of the daughter of Pharoah that stretched out her hand and Hashem lengthened her arm.  Nachshon said, I will enter the sea and Hashem will help, and that is what is meant by "...And Israel saw the great hand...".


"Then sang..." (Shemot 15:1)

The word for "sang"  is written in Hebrew "Yashir" (which is actually in the future tense).  The Baal HaTurim says, that this word "Yashir"  consists of the letter "Yud" (which has the numerical value of 10) followed by the word "Shir" (which means "song").  There are 10 Songs:  1) the Song of the Sea, 2) The Song of the Well, 3) the Song of Ha'azinu, 4) the Song of Yehoshua, 5) the Song of Devorah, 6) the Song of Channah, 7) the Song of David, 8) the Song of Shlomo, 9) the Song of Chizkiyahu, and 10) the Song of the Future to Come -- may it come speedily in our days, Amen. Therefore it is not written "Az Shar" (in English: "Then sang"), but "Az Yashir" (in English: "Then will sing"), because in the future to come we will sing again, speedily in our days, Amen.

The Merit of Saying Songs of Praise

Rav Yisrael Ben Levi says that everyone that says songs of praise (Shira) in this world merits to say songs of praise in the Next World (from Sanhedrin 91).  Everyone who says the song of the sea with great happiness, has all his sins forgiven. (from Midrash Tehillim 18)

"This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him..." (Shemot 15:2)  

The Sages say, be glorious before him with Mitzvot - a beautiful Tallit, a beautiful Succah, etc.  And it is necessary to understand why the explanation about beautifying the Mitzvot  is connected to the Torah Portion of Shira (the Song of the Sea), for it should have been appropriate to reveal this concept in one of the Torah Portions which speaks of the fulfillment of the Mitzvot, such Tzitzit, Succah, etc.  The explanation is that besides enabling Israel  to pass through the Sea, Hashem added many more miracles in the Sea, as is explained in the Midrash: many kinds of fruits grew, and there were many kinds of plants, spices, sweet water, and windows within the walls of the sea, etc.  Since Hashem added miracles for us much more than what was necessary, we should certainly add to the Mitzvot much more than what is required by law by making each Mitzvah beautiful and glorious as much as possible. (from Oznaim L'Torah)  In addition, there are those that explain that if we look at Rashi in the Torah Portion Vayeitze (29:35), he wrote "This time I will thank because I have taken more than my portion, and from now on I need to thank".  [with regards to Leah when she bore more than 1/4 of Yaakov's children]  It is clarified that the concept of thankfulness comes into play especially in response to recognition that we are getting more than we deserve. Therefore at the Sea we come to the expression of thankfulness by means of beautifying the Mitzvot because of the recognition and acknowledgement that we have received more than we deserved from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  In response to that, we express our will to serve Hashem more than we are commanded to and required to.  And there are those that say that the reason  that Israel accepted upon themselves to beautify the Mitzvot, was that the fifth miracle which was done at the Sea (look at the Rav Ovadia Bartenura in Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 5 Mishne 4) was that the waters that "froze" on the floors of the Sea were not all in one piece but were like building blocks that were interlocked, and that certainly was in order to make it beautiful for Israel.


On Tu B'Shvat, there is a custom to eat different kinds of fruit from trees, and especially from the fruit of the Land of Israel, in order to fulfill the idea of making symbols for ourselves and to show that this day is the New Year for the Trees (in regards to the matter of Trumot and Maaserot, etc.).  And it is customary to pray also for a beautiful Etrog.

The Torah Portion Beshalach has 116 verses. The Torah Portion Beshalach has within it 1 negative commandment.The Haftorah is "V'Devora Isha Naviah" (Shoftim 4)

We say Borchi Nafshi.

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772