Weekly Torah portion

Weekly Torah portion Beshalach with Rabbi Cherki

By Dmitry Kalashnik, Ben Noach from Ukraine

This parsha starts with the words Vayehi. Usually, but not always, this expression has negative connotation in the text. But it is hard to imagine what kind of negativity we can talk about if now the whole Jewish nation leaves Egypt! What better can it be? So, why it is written “vayehi”? Visa versa this is a very happy event. So we need to understand what is written here.

The whole project “geulat mitzraim” (geula is “redemption” in English) was not successful. If it was ok, then we would not be talking now about exodus from Egypt but about the last geula and this is it! The geulat mitzraim was supposed to be the geula of the whole ”am Israel” i.e. geula of the whole world and this would have finished the business completely.

But there is something that makes it difficult and detains the redemption, it is very slow in motion. Something goes together with geula and makes it slow.

We need to note – why Torah is writing us those things – something that happened long time ago? The reason is simple – this might happen anytime! From here we learn how geula is taking place. And part of the geula process has inside “vayehi”. And what happens after – the next word is “beshalah”!

What is the meaning of the word “beshalah”? In biblical Hebrew there are 2 meanings of this word – both of them we see in midrashim. One meaning is to send away or to divorce (gerush). But there is another meaning and it has an opposite meaning – to see somebody off.

So here we can see that Paro was seeing the Jewish people off, right? He keeps on walking with us! We did not finish the work. The word PARO has letters “heAFAR”, that is dust. And it is the basis of our hardships, it is heavy in some sort and slows down the process of geula-redemption. At first it is hard to believe how king of Egypt can interfere in the geula or there is a reason hidden somewhere? But is written anyway in the first pasuk.

In Mishna EDUYUOT we read about a man who is half free and half slave. How is it possible? In reality the person can be free or can be enslaved. But in Mishna two masters owned a slave and one of the owners let him go and made him free. So now his status is interesting – half slave and half free man. He works one day for his owner and one day for himself, in other words 50 per cent of the money goes to his owner and remaining 50% goes to his own pocket. And our concern is only financial – what we do with the man like this?

The Bet Hillel says to Beit Shamai– “you fixed the owner but you did not fix him”. What you are doing – you take care of the owner only!! But what about that poor man himself? He can not marry a female slave because he is 50% free man, but he also can not marry a free woman because he is the 50% slave! According to the law a free man can not take a wife from the slaves and the other way around. Or do you want to say – it is not important and let it be like this?

There is a commandment in Torah “pru vervu” – (multiply and be fruitful) only for those who are obliged to get married. If the person falls out from this category, so he is not commanded? But Beit Shamai answered – “but not for this was created the world”? Look at the jump in way of thinking!

We talked about the private person and he had some small (or big) individual problem. And one needs to find the solution and when we try to fix his private problem – we come to the question – why the world was created!! And our Mishna goes on, the world was created for the purpose of “to be fruitful and to multiply”. So before we used to make children because of many small reasons but right now we find out that by making children we make “tikun aolam”.

So what about that poor man in slavery? We need to make him go free (even if he does not want). Basically we make free the 50% slave portion of that man and after that he is completely free! But what about the money he costs on the slave market? He will need to pay this money to his ex-owner in the future.

And Beit Hillel accepted opinion of Beit Shamai. And this is alacha. We must feel that there is some hidden message behind the story. The man in question is archetype of Am Israel. And really the Jewish nation was slave in Egypt. Who was the owner of Am Israel in Egypt? Who made a decision that Jews would end up in slavery? This is the God himself. So we had two masters in Egypt – the God Himself and the Paro at the same time. But one of the masters made us free and this is what God made, but the other master did not want to do the same thing. And because of this the whole “Tikun Olam” (Rectifying the World) is delayed!! Paro makes problems, so we should use power to make him let us go. What power are we talking about? 10 makot – 10 plagues or punishments. And eventually he let us go….. But we have some unpaid bills in regard with Paro, we owe him some money for our deliverance. Even though we left Egypt with the perfect goal of correcting or rectifying the world, we still owe him something. At the end of the story, some kind of frustration went down to Paro, his country and his culture. So he is expecting some compensation. He let people go but goes with them side by side – “you are free now but you owe me some cash”. In other words initially there should be total “etziat mitzraim” – the whole Egypt should have left but unfortunately it was not successful. As a result we got some obligation or commitment towards Paro.

To cut a long story short we have unexpected difficulties on our way to geula. Maybe we can understand the problem deeper when we read the rest of the pasuk. “Vayehi beshalach paro at haam” – And Paro sends some people called AM. Who are they? From the previous lessons we know that AM – is erev rav, people from other nations who joined Jews during Ten Plagues.

I will try to translate the whole verse in modern Hebrew and you check if my translation is correct or not correct. It is written here that the original God’s plan was to take Jewish people from Egypt to Israel on the straight road – through the Land of Plishtim and it makes sense – it is the shortest way. But because Jews were afraid of fighting Plishtim in their land, God decided to let them go the other way around – through the midbar – wilderness and it is a very long way. This translation seems to be very close to what is written in Torah.

Now let’s make a quick turn and get to the kindergarten. If some kid asks the teacher – why Jews did not go straight to the Land of Israel? Why they had to go around through wilderness? What will be the answer of the teacher? The answer will be – to receive the TORAH! But it is not written in Torah text – not a word. In Torah we read that the initial plan was to go straight to Israel and only afterwards the plan was changed. It means that “Matan Torah” – receiving Torah, was not planned at all, it happened for some extra reason later on. Actually there were several reasons, something went wrong – so the plan was changed and Jews went to Sinai to receive Torah!!!

Sounds strange or not at all? Could we have entered Israel without Torah? Why not? Who said we must receive Torah? I will give you an example. There were great people in the past – Abraham, Sarah, Itzhak, Rivka, Yaakov, Rahel, Lea – great of the greatests! And they did not receive Torah! It means there is a difference between the individual and the nation. But if I am a private person – do I need Matan Torah? Maybe if I am a person like Abraham – so there is no problem? The point is if the Jewish nation was on the level of Abraham, Itzhak and Yaakov – there was a chance there was no need to receive Torah. From the first verse we understand 100% clear that Matan Torah was not the original plan. It happened postfaсtum. What is Moshe selling to the Jews? He tells them he was sent by the God in order to fulfill the promise given to our fathers many years ago – to take us to Eretz Israel. This is all he says to them. When he went to Paro he also puts inside his speech some religious ideas – let us go out only for 3 days and we will worship our God etc, but everybody understood that was blatant bluff – which was sold to Paro. Everybody then wanted one thing only – to leave Egypt and arrive at the land of Israel. So the whole idea of Matan Torah, the religious aspect of leaving Egypt was not planned at all. The main goal was to go to Eretz Israel.

BESHALACH 2012-1213Rabbi Oury Cherky
Shmot 13-17

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