Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat B'Shalach 5759
[Numbers] are mitzvot in Sefer HaChinuch
Kohen - First Aliya - 14 p'sukim (13:17-14:8)
"When Par'o expels the People...", G-d leads them along a circuitous route to prevent them from panicking and returning to Egypt. Moshe, in fulfillment of the promise made to Yosef by his brothers, takes Yosef's remains out of Egypt with the People.
[SDT] The Midrash tells us that Yosef's bones had been hidden by the Egyptians in the Nile in order to prevent the Israelites from leaving the country. Yosef's coffin miraculously surfaced just at the right time, so that the People could take them with them when they left. We are taught that Yosef merited being taken outfor burial in Eretz Yisrael because he had arranged for his father's burial. Moshe, in turn, was accorded the highest honor - G-d Himself took care of Moshe's burial, in reward for the attention he paid to Yosef's remains.
[SDT] The Gemara teaches us that a dead body itself - and certainly one who is defiled to a dead body - is allowed into the Levite part of the Camp, and is only banned from the Mikdash area. This we learn from the fact that Moshe took Yosef's bones "with him".
This halacha has significance today concerning the permissibility of ascending the Temple Mount in those areas that are not where the Beit HaMikdash and its courtyard were. The Temple mount - outside the Mikdash area - has the status of the Levite camp, and it is possible to go there following Mikve and with certain restrictions.A person careful about Halacha should consult Rabbanim with Temple Mount experience before ascending to that very special and holy place.
[sdt] Bnei Yisrael left Egypt ARMED with weapons and prepared for all eventualities. This is the standard meaning of VACHAMUSHIM. Rashi adds another, very different, interpretation of the word. The root of the word is 5. Rashi quotes the opinion that only one in five Jews left Egypt. 80% of the population perished in Egypt,most during the plague of Darkness, so that we would not be shamed.
G-d provided an escort for the People in the form of a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire at night. G-d tells Moshe of His plan to lead the People in such a way that Par'o will pursue them in the misguided hope of bringing them back to Egypt. When Par'o is notified (by spies whom he had sent to accompany the Israelites)of the People's whereabouts, he (with G-d's help in making his heart "heavy" and "strong" again) takes a tremendous force with him and chases after the People of Israel.
from the BAAL HATURIM Par'o thought that the People were supposed to remain enslaved for 400 years, as was prophesied to Avraham Avinu. When he saw that the People "fled", in Hebrew - BARACH, as in KI VARACH HA'AM, he thought that G-d would allow him to recapture the People. BARACH = 2+200+8 = 210, the actual length of enslavement. Since thePeople left "early", Par'o thought he'd succeed in overtaking them. He did not know that G-d "calculated the KEITZ, the end. KEITZ = 100+90 = 190. The "remaining" 190 years of the "sentence" were considered to have already taken place, from the birth of Yitzchak, and did not prolong our stay in Egypt.
The 70 years of Exile following the destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash was also the subject of a miscalculation by our enemies.
May they always miscalculate, misjudge us, and underestimate us.
Levi - Second Aliya - 6 p'sukim (14:9-14)
The mighty Egyptian army pursues the People of Israel. When the People see them coming, they are greatly frightened because there is no place to flee. They complain to Moshe that it would have been better to have dies in Egypt. Moshe reassures the People, encourages them not to fear, promises them that G-d will fight ontheir behalf, and tells them that Egypt will soon cease to exist.
It might be suggested that what is happening is a clarification of who took the People of Israel out of Egypt. Par'o actually thought that he let the People go - that he expelled the People from Egypt. (This also might have been the perception of some of the Jews.) G-d arranged to have Par'o run after them. The events makeit clear to him - and to us - that G-d, and only G-d took us out.
Note that the People are told at this point that G-d will fight for them and they are to just stand by quietly. Contrast this to what happens at the end of the sedra with Amalek, where the People must enter battle. Sometimes it's one way; sometimes it's the other. The key is to follow G-d's instructions either way. Differentsituations require different action (or inaction). It isn't always easy to figure it out correctly.
Sh'lishi - Third Aliya 11 p'sukim (14:15-25)
G-d "asks" Moshe why the People are screaming; let them just move on.
[sdt] Our Sages teach us that there are times when prayer is called for, and other times when action is the order of the day. Sometimes we must use long prayers and petitions; sometimes a quick prayer not only suffices, but more can be counter-productive. G-d says: MA TITZ'AK EILAI, why call to Me? MA is spelled MEM-HEI.MEM represents the 40 days and 40 nights that Moshe was to spend in prayer on on behalf of the People following the Sin of the Golden Calf. MEM represents long prayer. HEI stands for the simple but eloquent 5-word prayer for Miriam's recovery from Tzora'at which she contracted in punishment for speaking disrepectfullyof Moshe.
And sometimes, neither short nor long prayer is appropriate. A this point of the Exodus, the order of the day was decisive action. Move it! Later, we have another example of Moshe and Aharon springing into immediate action to stop a plague from decimating the People, in contrast with the many times that Moshe's immediatereaction to G-d's "anger" with us was prayer.
G-d tells Moshe to raise his hand over the Sea and split it, so the People will be able to pass through it on dry land. G-d informs Moshe that He will again harden Egypt's heart (one more time) so that they will continue their pursuit. The Egyptians will finally know G-d's might. The guardian angel (Pillar of Cloud) thatwas leading the People now was repositioned between the Jews and the pursuing Egyptian army, thus preventing contact.
Moshe raises his hand above the Sea and G-d causes a powerful eastern wind to blow all night, followed by a parting of the waters. The People of Israel enter the Sea on dry land, between walls of water. Egypt boldly follows. The arrogant attitude of the Egyptians abruptly changes to fear and panic as their chariots losetheir wheels and bog down in the seabed. (This is in sharp contrast with the perfectly dry land that Israel miraculously found beneath its feet. Egypt finally (and too late) acknowledges G-d, not only now, but retroactively, as the One Who had faught for Israel in Egypt.
[sdt] What was the purpose of the stong wind blowing all night? Could not G-d have split the Sea with the snap of a finger?
The answer is: Of course. But the night's preparation for the miracles of the day serve several purposes.
The Egyptians are lulled into a false sense of security when something is happening that they can explain. They don't want to accept that the G-d of Israel is performing miracles for His people. No doubt, their wizards explained the desert winds and the effects it can have. Etc.
Among the Jews, there are always individuals who would also like not to admit to G-d's awesome powers. They too will have their "excuse" in the natural components of the miracle.
Perhaps, most importantly, this wind (and similar elements attached to other miracles) allows us to relate to and appreciate more, the miracles themselves. A snap of the finger brings results too quickly for us to think about what is happening. A night to ponder what was going on, further enhanced the appreciation of theChildren of Israel for what had happened, was happening, and was to happen.
R'vi'i - Fourth Aliya - 32 p'sukim (14:26-15:26)
Moshe is now instructed by G-d to raise his hand once more over the Sea so that the waters may return. He does so and the Egyptians are drowned. The People, however, have succeeded in passing through the Sea and are ecstatic in their salvation. They attain true belief and trust in G-d and in Moshe His servant. (Rambam statesthat complete, solid, lasting faith in G-d was attained at Sinai. Here we must say that the belief was great, but not yet permanent.)
Next we have the Song of the Sea.
For your information... The Song of the Sea is written in the Torah in a unique manner. The column it is contained within, is especially wide. There are five lines of regular text at the top of the column, followed by a blank line. The column starts with the word HABA'IM in all sifrei Torah. In is one of only 5 columns that do not begin with aVAV (this is so for most Torahs, but some are not VAV-Torahs). Line 1 of AZ YASHIR is "regular". Then even numbered lines consist of one word, a blank space, a few words, another blank space, and another single word. Odd numbered lines (from the third) consist of two blocks of text separated by a blank space. Following30 lines of AZ YASHIR there is another blank line. The column finishes with another five lines of "regular" text. (This was a description of a 42 line Sefer Torah, which is by far the most common type of Torah; but there are others.) The blank spaces are said to hint to deep secrets of Torah Knowledge.
What makes the Song of the Sea so special is that it is a direct quote of the People of Israel that G-d put into His Torah verbatim. In other words, the rest of the Torah is written by G-d; we composed this part. It is an inspiring passage that has been incorporated into the daily davening.
[SDT] Commentators point to the tense used in the beginning of the Song: Then Moshe and the Children of Israel WILL sing... This is taken as one of several allusions to the concept of T'chi'at HaMeitim, the resurrection of the dead.
It is written in Sefer HaChareidim that "he who says the Song of the Sea aloud and with joy, it is as if he was leaving Egypt at that moment - and his sins will be forgiven." In the merit of the Song of the Sea, G-d split the Sea for the People and forgave their transgressions.
The People continue their journey and fail to find water for three days. When they do find some, they complain bitterly (pun intended) of the inability to drink it. G-d directs Moshe to perform a miracle whereby the water becomes sweet.
[sdt] Aside from the literal meaning of the text, this episode is considered an allusion to the primacy of Torah in the life of a Jew. Both Torah and water sustain life - spiritual and physical. In the same vein, "three days without water" resulted in our reading the Torah on Monday and Thursday, so that in our wanderingin the spiritual desert of life, we will not go 3 days without spiritual water.
Chamishi - Fifth Aliya - 11 p'sukim (15:27-16:10)
The People next travel to Eilim and from there to Midbar Tsin, en route to Sinai. This time, they complain about the lack of food. G-d tells Moshe about the Manna which He will soon provide for the People. Moshe tells the People that they will soon see how G-d hears and listens to their complaints. Manna is not just thefood that sustains the people throughout their wandering, it is also a crucial test of the faith that the people should have in G-d. The Manna fell daily except for Shabbat, and was not allowed to be left over night (except for what fell on Friday). This facilitated a constant strength ening of our faith in G-d.
Shishi - Sixth Aliya - 26 p'sukim (16:11-36)
The account of the Manna continues...
Quail miraculously appear in the evening. On the next morning, the Manna - protected by a layer of dew above and below it - appears. The People are fascinated by it and when they question Moshe, he explains the rules and procedures set down by G-d.
Despite being told that the Manna will NOT fall on Shabbat, there were individuals who went out to search for Manna.
G-d "takes note" of this display of lack of faith.
Included in the instructions about the Manna is the command not to "leave our place on the seventh day (to collect the Manna)". This was not just a rule for that generation; it is a mitzva among the 613 - the mitzva of T'chum Shabbat .
Mitzva Watch A PERSON SHALL NOT LEAVE HIS PLACE ON THE SEVENTH DAY. The Sages disagree as to whether this pasuk actually commands us concerning the Shabbat Boundary, or whether it "merely" inspired the Sages to restrict our "travel" on Shabbat.
Rambam claims that T'CHUM SHABBAT is Biblical. He holds that the Torah forbids walking more than 12 mil (24,000 amot) beyond one's "place of Shabbat". This corresponds to the length and breadth of the Israelite Camp in the Wilderness. Since this is the context of the commandment in question, the Rambam posits that the Torah's limit is 12 mil.
The Sages, however, greatly shortened the T'CHUM, to 2000 amot, toconform with the description of the Levite cities (end of BaMidbar), where 2000 amot are specifically mentioned as being part of the cities. The Ramban holds that the entire concept of a limit for the distance one may walk on Shabbat is Rabbinic - inspired by the Torah, but legislated by the Rabbis. Either way, all agreethat we are forbidden to walk more than 2000 amot outside our "place" on Shabbat. "Place" is defined as where a person is at the onset of Shabbat. If that be a town or city, then the entire populated area, regardless of size, is considered the person's own "four cubits", and the 2000 amot limit begins beyond the border of the city. The laws of T'CHUM and the related topic of ERUV are very complex.
The details are the domain of halachic experts. The concept behind the whole matter should be well within our grasp. The six days of the work-week are characterized by being "on the go". Shabbat is the day of rest. Not only do we abstain fromvarious creative activities, but we demonstrate with our entire deportment that G-d is the Master.
The episode of the Manna is the context in which the Shabbat was first introduced to the People of Israel. A sample of the Manna was stored as a remembrance for future generations.
That food is a significant component of Shabbat is a direct result of the context in which we were first introduced to Shabbat. But there is more than that which we derive from the Manna experience. Shabbat is to be prepared for. This is the major factor of Shabbat that does not take place on the day itself. In other words,being Shomer Shabbat involves more than what takes place during the 25 hours of the seventh day of the week. Friday has to be Erev Shabbat, too.
Sh'vi'i - Seventh Aliya - 16 p'sukim (17:1-16)
The People journey to Refidim and once again complain about the lack of water. (It is not the complaint itself that "angers" G-d - if you're thirsty, you're thirsty. It is the apparent lack of faith and the doubt in the value of the Exodus that casts a negative light on the People of that generation.) In response, G-d tells Moshe to gather the Elders and People and strike a rock in their presence with his miraculous staff. The result is water for the People.
The final nine p'sukim (which constitute the Torah reading for Purim morning - the shortest Torah reading possible) tell of the attack by Amalek on the fledgling nation of Israel. It is the archtypical fight against those who would seek to destroy us. This battle repeats itself - in different forms - throughout Jewish History.
When Moshe goes to the high place to lift his arms in prayer for the safety of Bnei Yisrael in their battle against Amalek, Aharon and nephew Chur each help support one of his arms. Then the Torah tells us that his arms were an EMUNAH until evening. Emunah is usually translated as faith or belief, but here it has the connotation of STEADY. Baal HaTurim presents the wording in the Torah as an allusion to the Avot, who backup Moshe's prayers. Emunah, Ad Bo, and HaShemesh each have textual connections to Avraham Yitzchak, and Yaakov.
52 p'sukim - Sho'f'tim 4:4-5:31 In some traditions, the Haftara is shorter. During the period of the Judges, the People's faith in G-d had similar "ups and downs" to those we find in the sedra. Devorah was instrumental in restoring a high level of faith in G-d among the People and in leading the People to great victories. The format of the Song of Devorah is the same as the Song of the Sea. Bothsongs express our joyful gratitude to G-d for saving us from terrible oppression.