By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
There are many miracles that our Creator performed in the Exodus from Egypt
and the subsequent 40 years in the desert. One of the great kindnesses
miraculously orchestrated by G-d took place at the end of the Forty Years
and is not told in detail in the Torah--it is hinted to in this week's
Parasha and elucidated by our Sages in the Midrash.
The verse says, "Then Israel sang this song; 'Rise up, o well, ask it
to respond.'[Bemidbar 21:17] Rashi clarifies the motivating factor leading
to this joyous song by all the people of Israel. The nation was traveling
through the desert and passed through an area, which was a deep narrow
between steep cliffs. The Emorite enemies of the Jews hid high in the hills
planning to kill the unsuspecting nation with stones and arrows catapulted
from on high. Hashem miraculously closed the gap between the peaks and our
enemies were crushed between the stonewalls of the mountainsides. The
Israelites passed over the mountains totally unaware of the kindness of G-
Then the mountains moved back to their original positions revealing the
valley once again. A miraculous spring of water was created and it carried
the blood and bones in view of the encampment of our people. Were it not
this second miracle the first miracle would have never been discovered.
The Siftay Hachamim asks: "Why didn't Hashem return the mountains to
their original position immediately with the passage of the Jews to safety
and thereby reveal the miracle to His flock without necessitating the
miracle. They respond: "It would not be proper for the maidservant [the
mountain], who came forward to greet her mistress [the Children of Israel],
to return to her place before her mistress had passed through."
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz Shlit"a learns from here that Derech
Eretz--manners-- is not merely a matter of etiquette; it is, he says, a
"binding law [halacha] ". This law cannot be violated even if a greater
sanctification of G-d's name would result. Hashem changed nature a second
time to teach us the importance of propriety in our behavior.
Sometimes our greatest tests in the area of Derech Eretz--manners come
when we are trying to do something right spiritually. Once a student of the
great Mussar master Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was running to synagogue and he
stepped on another person's toes. The Rabbi, after reproving his student
his inconsiderate haste, ordered him to pay for the victim's shoeshine.
Every day in Heaven the Angels sing the praises of G-d. We mimic their
performance when we stand and recite "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh" in our
communal prayers. Take note that the Angels, before they begin to recite
praise of G-d, "ask permission one from another [mebaksheem reshoot zeh
lazeh]". The Alter from Slobodka points out that this teaches us that no
matter how "holy' the cause Derech Eretz takes precedence.
We all must strive daily to achieve ultimate spiritual perfection.
What we learn from the mountains is that we can't trample on others while
make our personal climb to the top. Our show of respect to the feelings of
others is what constitutes kiddush Hashem --the sanctification of G-d's
name, in whose image all men and women were created.
DID YOU KNOW THAT: one of the reasons why we cover the bread when
Kiddush over the wine on Shabbat and Holy Days is that we don't want to
"embarrass" the bread as we show honor to the wine.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.