By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This weeks parsha, Beshalach, begins with the possuk (13:17) "Vayehee, and it was, when Paroah sent the nation". We've
mentioned before that the word 'vayehee' connotes sorrow. Why is a term of sorrow used to introduce the ecstatic moment
of our liberation!? Another question commonly asked is, why is Paroah, of all people given the credit for sending B'nei
The Ohr Gedalyahu quotes the medrash that the term 'beshalach', in addition to meaning 'sent', can also be defined as
'accompany'. The possuk now assumes a totally different meaning. In a spiritual sense, Paroah accompanied the nation. The
Torah commands us to escort our guests and to escort the deceased. The Maharal explains that the purpose of this mitzvah
is to create a lasting bond and connection between the two parties. Paroah's 'escorting us' meant that we were still carrying
'Paroah' along with us. We had yet to rid ourselves of the many negative influences manifested by Paroah himself.
With this, we can return to the questions we began with. We asked why is a term of sorrow used and why does it say that
Paroah 'shalach'. The lasting effect of Paroah, which we carried along with us, darkened that bright moment of our
liberation with a certain degree of vayahee, of sorrow. In a physical sense we left Mitzraim, but in a spiritual and emotional
sense, Paroah was still with us. We were not yet truly free.
This also explains the continuation of the possuk. Hashem couldn't lead us through the land of the Plishtim, lest we'd want to
return to Mitzraim! Only that lasting influence of Paroah would allow us to entertain the thought of return.
We now needed to encounter and grow through different experiences in order to cleanse ourselves from this influence and
ready us to receive the Torah. One very vivid experience was our being pursued by the Mitzrim and the ultimate splitting of
the Yam Suf.
The possuk (14:10) states that as Mitzraim were chasing B'nei Yisroel "u'Paroah hikreev", literally defined that Paroah
drew close. The medrash explains that in fact, Paroah caused us to draw close! The fright of seeing Paroah and his whole
army in hot pursuit caused us to draw close to Hashem through tfilah, prayer.
Rav Chatzkel Levinshtein zt"l explains that the purpose of Paroah chasing us was to bring us to this elevated level of tfilah. A
topic we've discussed a number of times is our misunderstanding of true cause and effect. Often, when going through a
difficult experience, we call out to Hashem to help us. We superficially perceive that we are davening in order that Hashem
will deliver us from that predicament. In fact, Hashem sent that event in order to raise our level of tfilah! It was our need for
hisor'rus, spiritual arousal, that caused Hashem to send us that situation!
This explains a very basic question on tfilah raised by the Nefesh Hachaim. If we accept that all events which transpire in
this world are merciful decrees of Hashem, how can we call out to Him to change these decrees? Aren't we like a patient
who cries out for mercy to the doctor who insists that amputation is critical to stop the spread of infection?! According to
Rav Chatzkel, there is no difficulty whatsoever! There was no need for the 'operation'! The true intention of scheduling the
'operation' was to cause us to pray! It was only intended to spur us to realize our latent potential, and to connect to our
Creator on an even deeper and more intimate level!
Another way of viewing tfilah is suggested by the Sefer HaIkarim. Granted, Hashem will only do what is best for a person,
but what determines who that person is? As a person changes, that which is best for him also changes. One of the most
dynamic ways of growing and developing oneself is through a vivid 'face to face' encounter with one's Creator. One should
walk away a changed person with revamped priorities. As sincere tfilah changes our goals and attitudes, Hashem's decrees
are 'updated' accordingly. The amputation is no longer necessary, the patient's test results have changed drastically!
An additional purge of the Paroah influence was achieved and internalized with our singing of "Az yashir"(15:1), the praise,
sung for our deliverance. The Baal Haturim notes that the word 'az' (then), begins both Moshe's praise and Moshe's earlier
complaint. "Uma'az Ba'ati el Paroah"(5:23), from the time that I came to Paroah, from then, he has worsened the fate of
the nation. The medrash takes this a step further by relating that Moshe was saying, "I sinned with 'az', I'll now say shira
The Beis Halevi elucidates the deeper message of this medrash. If one finds himself in a difficult predicament and Hashem
delivers him, he feels a sense of gratitude. If he's feeling thanks only for being saved, his gratitude is no greater than had he
never been placed in that predicament.
The shira (song of praise) sung by Moshe and Bnei Yisroel was of a totally different nature. We weren't singing for simply
having been redeemed. Our gratitude was for having been the medium through which Hashem's power and greatness were
publicized. We rejoiced for the oppression, to the same degree that we rejoiced for the deliverance! Moshe chose the same
word to stress his different view of the sequence of events. Whereas before I complained when the oppression augmented,
I'm now singing praise for that initial worsening of our fate!
That recognition that every phase of every event we experience is an integral part of the masterplan, was a major step away
from the Paroah that was shadowing us!
May we each, as individuals, and collectively, as a nation, properly view the events sent to us from above. May we use
them as the vehicles of growth and self realization that they were intended to be. May we purge the traces of Paroah that
linger in each and every one of us and merit the ultimate and final redemption.
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Zion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).