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Beshalach Feb 2-3, '96

The Splitting of the Sea

After ordering the Israelites to leave Egypt, Pharaoh once again changes his mind. He and his army pursue his former slaves, reaching them as they approach the sea. The waters miraculously separate. The Israelites, surrounded by water, walk on ground. Pharoah orders the army to pursue, but their chariots get stuck in mud. Once the Israelites have crossed, the waters return to their previous state, and the Egyptians drown. Eighty years after the Egyptians threw Israelite infants into the Nile, the mighty Egyptian army has itself succumbed to the fierce current found in a natural body of water.

The Israelites, safe upon the other side of the sea, sing -- in unison -- a song of prophetic inspiration. The song concludes:

Exodus 15:18
1.G-d will reign forever!
--alternately translated:
2.May G-d's majesty rule for eternity!

The meaning of the verse, writes Nachmanides, is a request. Just as G-d had shown His rulership by having saved the Israelites and destroyed their enemies, may it be His will to do so in all generations.

However -- writes Nachmanides -- the ancient Aramaic Translator Onkelos refused to render the verse literally. The verse is in the future tense; why would it be necessary to request G-d's authority in the future? G-d indeed shall rule forever, and there is no point in praying for something that must occur anyway. Therefore, he conveyed the meaning in the continuant present, in the form of a statement and matter of fact:

3."The Kingdom of G-d endures forever..."

Nachmanides, however, questions Onkelos' explanation on the basis of many verses, which indicate prayer for G-d's rule in the future. One of Nachmanides' sources is not a verse, but the language of the Kaddish prayer in the daily services, which expresses the desire that G-d be glorified in the future. He does not clearly explain the intention of these prayers for G-d's future reign, but indicates mysteriously that they are similar to the blessings themselves...

The Purpose of the Blessings --Praise or Prayer?

For what purpose were the daily blessings instituted? It is not up to us to "bless" G-d, Who is the source of perfection! Two opinions are typically given: 1. The "blessing" expresses our obligation to thank and praise the Almighty. 2. The blessings actually are parts of the prayer. Prayer refers to supplication (Mishnah, Ethics of the Fathers). The blessings are actually requests of further beneficence from the source of all sustenance.

Unique among the prayers is the Kaddish. While our prayers and blessings pertain to various needs, the Kaddish is the selfless declaration of the loftiest goal: the magnification and realization of G-d's majesty. This is a prayer for G-d.

What could it mean to pray for G-d? He is the source of perfection! As mysterious as it seems, for some reason He did not impose His will upon humanity, but provided direction and free choice. The Torah tell us that He wants something from us, but He will not coerce us to carry out His will at this time. In the holy prayer -- the Kaddish -- we request that G-d's desires be realized soon.

Nachmanides, in his typically mysterious fashion, has alluded to a new understanding of the blessings. Our regular daily blessings may be entirely understood in this fashion: We request that His Name be recognized, and that His reign be acknowledged, heeded and exalted.

Rav Chavel, in his commentary to Nachmanides, explains how this idea relates to the blessings. The blessings mention G-d's name, then "King of the Universe." The purport being: If G-d's name is recognized, blessing and life will come to the world, assuring that His Kingdom will be acknowledged in the world of the future...


 

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