Parshat Beshalach 5778: “To”, or “About” B’nei Yisrael; One or Two Crossings of the Reed Sea? And Today?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Beshalach is being sponsored by R’ Moshe and Marla Braun (Moshe Braun – Fine Judaic Art) and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Marla’s birthday on 14th Sh’vat. To the Braun family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beshalach 5778: “To”, or “About” B’nei Yisrael; One or Two Crossings of the Reed Sea? And Today?

by Moshe Burt

A shiur a number of years ago by Rav Aba Wagensberg on our Parshat Beshalach continues to intrigue this author. At that time, R’ Wagensberg rendered a translation of Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3 which differs from the rendering in most Chumashim. More recently, R’ Wagensberg again discussed these renderings in a written vort on our Parshat.

Below are both the Chumash rendering and the rendering by Rav Wagensberg based on Yonasan ben Uziel and others:

“And Pharaoh will say about the Children of Israel, they are confined in the land, the wilderness has locked them in.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3 as rendered in Chumashim)

“And Pharaoh said to the Children of Israel, they [the Jews] are confused in the land, the wilderness has locked them in” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3, as rendered by Rav Wagensberg based on Yonasan ben Uziel).

Notice the difference in the renderings and the transliteration of the Hebrew and vowels of the Chumash (below):

“V’ahmar Pharaoh L’B’nei Yisrael…”

Rashi explains on the posuk as formerly rendered in Chumashim (Rashi on Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3 as per The Sapirstein Edition — The Torah with Rashi’s commentary, page 148):

Pharaoh will say… — When he will hear that [the Jews] are returning to their rear, About the B’nei Yisrael, Although the prefix [Lamed] usually means “to” or “for”, the phrase ” L’B’nei Yisrael” means “about” the B’nei Yisrael…. We find other instances of the [Lamed] prefix meaning something other than “to” or “for”. For example; “Hashem y’lahcheim lahchem” — “Hashem will wage war on your behalf” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 14), the word lahchem which begins with the [Lamed] prefix means… on your behalf.

The point being: “And Pharaoh will say [about] L’B’nei Yisrael…”, or “And Pharaoh said to B’nei Yisrael”?

R’ Wagensberg writes on the latter rendering and provides commentary citing Yonasan ben Uziel and other commentaries regarding Pharaoh’s words, to whom they were spoken in the run-up to the Kriyat Yam Suf [the parting of the Reed Sea], and what happened after:

This verse is troubling. If all the Jews already left Egypt, how can it say that Pharaoh said anything to the “Children of Israel?” All the Jews were already gone.

At first, Dasan and Aviram (two Jewish men who were trouble makers) did not want to leave Egypt. They enjoyed Egyptian culture and desired to remain behind with the Egyptians. So, when the Jewish People left Egypt, Dasan and Aviram did not join them. Rather they remained behind with the Egyptians.

However, when Dasan and Aviram heard about Kriyas Yam Suf, they had a change of heart and wanted to join their Jewish brethren….. So, Dasan and Aviram went to the very place that the Jews were standing prior to Kriyas Yam Suf. They too wanted to cross. Suddenly, the most incredible thing happened. There was a second Kriyas Yam Suf for Dasan and Aviram! (Sefer Beis Avraham Beis Aharon, citing the Ruach Chadashah on the Haggadah Shel Pesach, found in the Pesach Machzor “Beis Yisrael”, under “Nissei Hayam”, #19, citing a Midrash that we do not have in print today).

….After the Jews left Egypt and reached the seashore, God commanded that they begin to turn back towards Egypt in order to make Pharaoh think that the Jews were unsure of themselves and vulnerable to be attacked. This would tempt Pharaoh to chase after them, thus setting the stage for Egypt’s destruction. Pharaoh’s scouts reported this turnaround to Pharaoh, at which point the verse says, “And Pharaoh said to the Children of Israel, they [the Jews] are confused in the land, the wilderness has locked them in” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3).

Yonasan ben Uziel (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3) says that Pharaoh was talking to Dasan and Aviram who remained behind. They were also the B’nei Yisrael. However, later we find Dasan and Aviram together with the Jewish People in the desert during the story of leaving the Manna overnight (Sefer Shemot, Perek 16, posuk 20) and during the episode of Korach’s rebellion (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 16, posuk 27). If Dasan and Aviram were not with the Jews during Kriyas Yam Suf, how did they catch up to the Jews afterwards? This supports the notion that there was a second Kriyas Yam Suf for Dasan and Aviram. (See the Baer Mayim Chaim, Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 29 and the Maharil Diskin, Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk 14 who agree with this approach).

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains why the Torah “repeated” the miracle of Kriyas Yam Suf a second time. Actually, the verse did not repeat anything. The first mention of the miracle refers to the first splitting of the sea, whereas the second mentioning of the miracle refers to the second splitting of the sea. This is not a repetition; it is a continuation of the story.

Thus we have two crossings:

“The B’nei Yisrael came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 22)

“The B’nei Yisrael went on dry land in the midst of the sea; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 29)

R’ Wagensberg concludes:

This also explains why the first reference of the miracle mentions the water before the dry land. It is because the first verse is talking about the Jewish People who trusted in God and jumped into the Yam Suf before it split, while it was still water. Only afterwards did it become dry land. However, the second reference of the miracle mentions the dry land before the water because the second verse is talking about Dasan and Aviram who did not trust in Hashem. They would never jump into an ocean. Only after they saw that the sea turned into dry land for the Jews, were they willing to enter.

However, the big question on all of this is, “How did Dasan and Aviram deserve to have a Kriyas Yam Suf just for them?” These two characters were trouble makers throughout. When Moshe saw an Egyptian beating up a Jew (Sefer Shemot, Perek 2, posuk 11), the verse says that Moshe looked to see if there was anybody watching. The verse says that there was nobody around.

Then, Moshe killed the Egyptian (Sefer Shemot, Perek 2, posuk 12). The next day Moshe saw that word of his killing the Egyptian had leaked out (Sefer Shemot, Perek 2, posuk 14; Shemos Rabbah, 1:30). Pharaoh sent officers to apprehend Moshe and have him executed. Moshe would have been killed if not for a miracle that occurred (Shemos Rabbah, 1:36). How did word leak out if the verse says that there was nobody around? Well, there was one person who did witness Moshe kill the Egyptian; the Jew that was being clobbered by the Egyptian. That Jew acted as an informer and told Pharaoh that Moshe killed an Egyptian and deserves to be punished, even though his life was just saved by Moshe. That Jew was Dasan! (Shemos Rabbah, 1:33). Dasan is the quintessential paradigm example of a snitch.

On the next day, Moshe sees two Jewish men fighting. Moshe called each one of them a Rasha (wicked); (Sefer Shemot, Perek 2, posuk 13; Shemos Rabbah, 1:29). Those two Jewish men were Dasan and Aviram. Dasan and Aviram were bad. They should have died with the four-fifths of wicked Jews who perished during the Plague of Darkness (Sefer Shemot, Perek 13, posuk18; Mechilta, Tanchuma). How did Dasan and Aviram survive the Plague of Darkness? And again, how did Dasan and Aviram deserve to have their very own Kriyas Yam Suf?

The Jewish slaves were considered to be the lowest class of people. Above them were Jews that Pharaoh appointed as police officers to ensure that the Jews maintain production. These Jews were given whips and clubs to hit the slaves with if they slacked off. This would ensure that the quota would be met. Then there were Egyptian officers appointed over the Jewish police officers. If the slaves did not reach the quota, the Jewish police officers would be whipped and clubbed by the Egyptian officers for failing to do their jobs.

The Jewish police officers did not have the heart to whip the Jewish slaves. When the quota was not met at the end of the day, those Jewish police officers were beaten by the Egyptian officers (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk 14). Those Jewish police officers, who were still bleeding from the blows that they just received, complained to Moshe and Aharon for making matters worse (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posukim 20-21). Who were those Jewish police officers? Rashi (Sefer Shemot, Perek 5, posuk 20, based on Nedarim, chap. 9, “Rebbi Eliezer”, pg. 64b, Rebbi Yochanan quoting Rebbi Shimon ben Yochai) says that they were Dasan and Aviram!

Although Dasan and Aviram had many character flaws, there was something virtuous about them. They were willing to take a hit for a fellow Jew! Because of that, they did not perish during the Plague of Darkness. This honorable quality that they did possess was so great that the sea actually parted for them a second time.

Today, as more and more Jews undertake a mission in Emunah in Hashem and fulfill a goal of living as Jews in Eretz Yisrael, many more Jews choose to remain in Chutz L’Aretz, particularly in the United States. Many of those staying put in the US, although Observant, shy away from making Aliyah for parnossa and other fears.

And many others have melted and assimilated into society such that their connection with Judaism is marginal, if any connection exists at all. They’ve intermarried with non-Jews. They, or their next generation are both so distant from Judaism as to be lost and disparaging of Judaism and Israel by way of such as “J-Street”, campus bullying, same gender, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement , Antifa, etc.

If Hashem found a virtuous quality in Dasan and Aviram, as understood from the above p’shat, justifying their joining the rest of B’nei Yisrael in Bamidbar, how will things play out for the Jews of our generations who remain in Chutz L’Aretz?

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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