Parshat Beshalach 5782: Nachshon ben Aminadav and the B’nei Yisrael’s Reed Sea Crossing

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. Also Sponsoring is Julian Hurwitz of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of his Father Shlomo Leib ben Chaim Ephraim To the Braun family and to Julian Hurwitz, 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 5782: Nachshon ben Aminadav and the B’nei Yisrael’s Reed Sea Crossing

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Beshalach opens as Torah records:

“It happened that when Pharaoh sent out the people that Hashem did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines [P’lishtim], because it was near for Hashem said, ‘Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war and will return to Egypt.’ So Hashem turned the people toward the way of the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 13, posukim 17-18 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

The geographic term for the area is the Red Sea, however Rashi explains:

The word “suf” [as in Yam Suf] means a marsh in which reeds grow. Although Yam Suf is conventionally translated “Red Sea,” Rashi here indicates that “Sea of Reeds” is more precise. (Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 13, posuk 18 rendered to English in the The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary, Sefer Shemos, page 145)

This vort has been confined to the miracle of the splitting of the Reed Sea and its impact on the Jews.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin notes in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemos, page 104)

The B’nei Yisrael have to learn to fight their own battles.

With the Jews’ liberation from Egypt, the rules begin to change. Until now, …Hashem fought on their behalf. Now, the transition to independence requires that the B’nei Yisrael must learn to fend for themselves. Even… when… Hashem does intervene to complete the destruction of Egyptian might in the waters of the Reed Sea, Hashem does not act [against the Egyptians and their chariots] until the B’nei Yisrael take their destiny into their own hands and begin to move into the sea. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posuk 15)

Torah records (Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posuk 15 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition — The Torah with Rashi’s commentary, page 155):

“Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and let them journey!’”

Here, once again, this author refers back to the vort by Rabbi Pinchas Yehoshua Kaganoff which was previously mentioned in Parshat Vayechi — a vort from Rabbi Pinchas Yehoshua Kaganoff (presumably attributed to Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch) who illustrated how the words of the written Torah (Torah Sh’bektzav) are equated like the shorthand notes a student takes in a class or a lecture, whereas the Oral Torah (Torah Sh’bal Peh) provides the details, the full picture.

Torah records:

“Hashem said to Moshe, “…Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and let them journey forth! And You — lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the sea and split it; and the B’nei Yisrael shall come in to the midst of the sea on dry land. (Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posukim 15-16 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

“Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea, and Hashem moved the sea with a strong east wind all the night, and He turned the sea to damp land and the water split. 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 Shemos, Perek 14, posukim 21-22 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Rashi notes on Sefer Shemos, Perek 14, posuk 21 (citing Mechilta, Shemos Rabbah 21:6 ) :

“And the waters split…” All the waters of the world split at that time. It teaches that not only did the sea split, but all of the waters of the world split. (citing Mesiach Ilmim; Sifrei Chochamim) Furthermore, if the verse meant that only the sea split, it would have said “and the sea split.” (citing Mizrachi, Gur Aryeh in The Sapirstein Edition — The Torah with Rashi’s commentary, page 158)

Heading into Medrashim, we learn that there is much more to the Reed Sea crossing than Torah Sh’b’ktzav records.

“The Midrash Says” by Rabbi Moshe Weissman on Sefer Shemos relates on the crossing (pages 125 and 126):

Hashem said, “The B’nei Yisrael are worthy that the sea should split for them because they possess merits of their own, as well as of their forefathers.”

[One of these merits is] The sea will retreat when it sees Yosef’s coffin being carried in front of the B’nei Yisrael. Just as he [Yosef] fled Potifar’s wife, so will the sea flee for his descendants. (Rabbi Weissman citing Midrash HaGadol Yud Daled)

When the B’nei Yisrael arrived at the seashore, the mighty waves rolled towards them, towering in front of them. They were determined to travel further into the midst of the sea to fulfill Hashem’s command to continue their journey. (Rabbi Weissman citing Mechilta) The Nassi of Shevet Yehudah, Nachshon ben Aminadav, leaped into the waves and was followed by Shevet Binyamin. (Rabbi Weissman citing Tzrur Hamor) When the members of Shevet Yehudah noticed that the B’nei Binyamin had preceded them, they began to throw stones at Shevet Binyamin. (Rabbi Weissman again citing Mechilta)

Rabbi Mordechai Katz provides a scenario regarding the miracle of the Yam Suf in his sefer, “L’lMod Ulamed” (page 73):

Deniers of the existence of miracles claim that the works of Hashem are “natural phenomena.” This was the attitude that many non-believers [through our history] assumed with regard to the splitting of the Reed Sea…. They might claim that it was just a freak accident of nature.

To forestall any such beliefs, Hashem magnified the miracle of the Yam Suf…. Even water in a cup gravitated to two separate sides. Because of this, noone could deny that the splitting of the Yam Suf was a true miracle, a true act of Hashem, just as were all of the plagues in Egypt.

As the B’nei Yisrael were standing at the shores of the Yam Suf, watching the Egyptians draw close by the minute, they seemed petrified. What would they do. Then… Nachshon ben Aminadav stepped forward and jumped into the waters of the Yam Suf, fully confident that Hashem would save him. At the very moment that he touched the waters, they parted, and the B’nei Yisrael walked through them. (Rabbi Katz citing Sotah 37 Alef) It was Nachshon ben Aminadav’s unwavering faith in Hashem that led directly to the miracle which saved the Jews.

There seem to be different understandings among commentators regarding Nachshon ben Aminadav and and the B’nei Yisrael’s Reed Sea crossing.

This author learned long ago, back in the “Old Country” without remembering the source, that when Nachshon ben Aminadav “jumped into the waters of the Yam Suf,” the waters reached his chin before they split. How does this account reconcile with the other accounts cited in this vort?

It could well be that in reconciliation, if Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped into the waters of the Yam Suf, he could well have landed in water up to his chin, and at that very instant, the water split.

There seem to be many more miracles surrounding the Reed Sea crossing not covered in this vort, such as the various aspects of Hashem’s complete decimation of the Egyptian military as they pursued the Jews after three days “festival”, the immense booty which floated to the surface after the Egyptian military drowned in the Sea and much more. To discuss all aspects surrounding the Reed Sea crossing would make for never-ending vort.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides an appropriate sum-up in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemos, page 111):

At the banks of the Reed Sea, dramatic events forge the next stage in our nation’s birth. Eventually, however, the drama and power of these events will fade. What will remain are the lessons these events are meant to transmit. The Jews’ ability to carry those lessons forward will determine their ultimate success.

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.