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Parshas Beshalach

The parsha discusses the Splitting of the Sea, the song they sang at that time, and the falling of the mon (manna).

"Pharaoh approached. The Children of Yisrael raised their eyes, and behold -- the Egyptians were coming from behind them! The Children of Yisrael became very worried, and they cried out to Hashem." (Shmos 14:10-12)

"Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem..." (Shmos 14:10) Rashi explains: 'They latched on to the expertise of their fathers,' (i.e., prayer). Still, when Moshe davens, Hashem responds, "I have accepted your prayer." See Rashi there: "Now is not the time to daven, tell them to go!"

What is the need for davening, since Hashem had assured them that He would fight on their behalf? They were never in danger; it was merely part of Hashem's plan to embolden the Egyptians to chase after Yisrael in order that the Egyptians be punished by the Sea. So the Torah clearly states (Shmos 14:2-4). Since everything had been determined in advance by Hashem, what was the need for prayer?

We have discussed how prayer is not merely for our self-serving interests, but is an essential part of our services to Hashem. Nonetheless, the Maharal states (Bereshis 30) that there cannot be any benefit without request through prayer. How can we understand -- what is the effect of davening?

Tefilah -- The Necessity for Prayer

The words of Rav Michel Feinstein ("Chidushei Rebbenu Hagrim"):

When a person is in pain, he must daven until he has been answered. Prayer, besides having the ability to reverse the attribute of justice to that of mercy (Talmud, Sukkah 14a), is required in order to bring the Will of Hashem from the potential to the actual. Even that which is vitally necessary and must occur, will not come to fruition without tefilah -- prayer.

We find in the Torah's account of Creation, that rain did not fall until man prayed (Rashi, Bereishis 2:5). Similarly, Avraham had been promised that his heritage would be passed on through Yitzchak (Ibid., 21:12) -- yet we find that Yitzchak had to pray for his wife to give birth (Ibid., 25:21).

Indeed, we find (Rashi, Shmos 14:15) 'the merit and the faith of the forefathers is sufficient that the sea will be split,' but at the same time, Rashi writes (Ibid., verse 19) that Yisrael was being judged at that time, whether they would be saved or perish along with the Egyptians! The Rabbis relate (Yalkut 234) "The Accuser said: 'Master of the World, didn't Yisrael serve idols in Egypt? Yet, You perform miracles for them?' " The Talmud adds (Sanhedrin 98b), "The Holy One said, 'Both nations are the work of My hands, how can I destroy these before those?' "

How can we explain these inconsistencies? It seems that the judgments of Hashem are true, from the beginning to the end. Still, there is room for the attribute of justice to complain and criticize even after Hashem's promise has been given. This is why the Rabbis say (Brochos 4a) that even after Hashem had told Yaakov "I will be with you," nonetheless, Yaakov was afraid that sins would intervene and prevent the blessings from being fulfilled.

Actually, the assurances cannot be nullified; "Any good word that emanates from Hashem -- even on condition -- will not be taken back." (Ibid.) However, the accusations -- bearing some truth -- can delay fulfillment of the promises. For this we need prayer, to bring out clemency in judgment: Hashem Himself testified that Yisrael only served idolatry because of the extenuating circumstances of the servitude and resulting confusion. Once they have been sufficiently defended, the promise will be fully actualized.

The Song

"Then Moshe and the Children of Yisrael sang this song..." Rashi struggles with the grammar of this verse. Literally, the verse says Moshe will sing, in the future tense. Rashi explains, "When he saw the miracle, the thought arose in his heart that he would sing the song." In Minchas Asher, Rav Asher Weiss points out that this seems very forced. What is the meaning of such a statement? Rav Weiss refers us to the words of the Maharal: The essence of the song is the feeling of happiness in the heart. The song began with a true feeling, a desire to break out in song because of the wondrous miracle which had occurred. It is not enough to have the feeling, however. The feeling must culminate with the actual song. The Tzadikim sing with all their heart and soul, and in this way their happiness becomes complete.

The Ramban connects the song at the sea with the story of the mon (manna). The mon was a spiritual sustenance. Only someone accustomed to high spiritual levels would be able to eat it and be sustained. "At the point where they were able to recognize the miracle and sing -- their souls became elevated -- now they would be able to subsist on the mon."

On the night of the Seder we sing and rejoice with the simcha of Torah and service, and reprove the wicked son. Without singing, without recognizing and rejoicing over the miracles -- it would be impossible for him to survive on the Mon alone.

"If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!" (Hagada)

In reality, there were many hardships on the way out of Egypt. They complained -- even the wondrous mon left them hungry. The Ohr Hechayim points out that, having experienced hardships, we become greater. In spite of difficulties, if we remember to seek Hashem's help, and to recognize and rejoice over the realization of miracles -- we can survive, even thrive -- during physically challenging times.

"The song (of the future redemption) will be like the night of the sanctification of the festival." (Yeshaya 30) On the nights of Pesach, they sang on the rooftops in Yerushalayim until it seemed that the roofs would break. (Talmud, Pesachim) Such was the power of their rejoicing!

Concepts and Mussar from Kelm -- translated from the original "Chochma Ummusar." Rav Simcha Zissel Ziev Tenth Letter, Part Two -- Student's Summary (Continued)

16. A person who works with the public will be tested in the following way. It is obligatory to bear the yoke of the congregation's burdens and to desire their success. This may necessitate being silent, even when painful, and may perhaps lessen one's own honor. However, being able to withstand such a situation is a test, and will highlight one's ability to perceive the truth.

17. An intelligent person seeks the advice of someone greater. As one seeks to deal with each matter wisely, he bends himself to a wise leader and accepts his teaching. Unbridled will, however, follows the heart and spurns advice. Seeking advice cuts deep to the straight point...and demands that everything be done in like manner.

Listening to advice is a sign that a person is an intellectual, and he will surely become wise, (1) when he recognizes the ways of the wise one. One who doesn't seek, and and doesn't listen to advice -- this is a sign that he is one who follows his unbridled will. Someone with 'will' doesn't seek advice -- no need to say from another person -- indeed, such a person won't follow his own advice! "Because he wants." What good are suggestions which illustrate obligations and straight points, in opposition to one's will?

Consequently, if someone doesn't commit himself to follow advice -- this is a sign, that he is a man of 'will' -- and is the opposite of the intellectual. He acts out of love for himself, and travels in the gate of destruction (perish the thought!). This idea, frightening as it is, is a novel one -- the reverse of what people think.

This explains the words of the Mishnah (Pirke Avos, 2:1), "Which is the straight way which a person should choose? That which is honorable in itself, and honorable in the eyes of man." Rebbenu Yona explains: Imagine asking advice. What advice would they give you? Act accordingly.

[According to Sha'are Teshuva 1:31, the verse "The purified one will act in a straight manner" (Mishle 21:8) means: When a person breaks his desires, his intellect will gain the upper hand, and he will be successful.]

However, one who doesn't pursue the straight way -- his entire goal being the pursuit of self-will and desire -- "because he wants" -- will not seek advice. How deep and precious are these words.

1. Mishle 12:15. "The way of the fool is straight in his eyes, but one who listens to advice is wise."

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Bais Medrash Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Kiryas Radin Ramapo, New York 10977 845 362-5156

Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and



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