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Posted on January 24, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:


These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: # 1279 Parshas Zachor for Women After Davening & Other Krias HaTorah Issues. Good Shabbos!

The Medrash Rabbah in Parshas Beshalach comments on the pasuk “Then (‘Az‘) Moshe sang…” (Shemos 15:1), saying that Moshe remarked: I sinned with the word “az” when I said “And from then (m’az) that I came to speak to Pharaoh in Your Name he made matters worse for the nation and You have not saved Your Nation” (Shemos 5:23), and so now I will recite shirah (song) with the word ‘az‘.

According to this Medrash, Moshe Rabbeinu had a special intent by starting his shirah with the word “az” (then). Moshe now looks back at the whole process of Yetzias Mitzraim (the Exodus) and recognizes that he previously sinned terribly by using that word. Moshe had been frustrated when his initial attempt to speak to Pharaoh in Hashem’s name caused a deterioration of the status of the Jewish slaves. Previously, Pharaoh had at least provided them with straw to make bricks. After hearing Moshe’s message from Hashem, Pharaoh stopped providing the straw, but still demanded the same quota of bricks be made every day.

At the beginning of Parshas Vaera, Chazal mention that Hashem had a complaint about Moshe. The Avos never complained to Him when things went bad. Moshe’s strong words of protest to the Almighty were seen as disrespectful. Moshe Rabbeinu remarks: “Now I need to do Teshuva.” What is his Teshuva? He takes the same word with which he complained, and now uses it in a song of praise to the Almighty!

This use of “az” – “az“, once in a complaint and once in a song of praise seems like a strange “gezeirah shavah” (common Biblical word that teaches a lesson). There must be something deeper implicit in this Medrash. What does it mean?

The Beis HaLevi in this week’s parsha says a very important principle: There are two types of shevach v’ho’da’ah (praise and thanksgiving) that we give to the Ribono shel Olam. The typical situation, lo olaynu, is for example if a person was very sick, perhaps even deathly ill, and then he gets better, so he gives shevach v’ho’da’ah to the Ribono shel Olam that he has been cured from the disease. However, had he been given the choice of not having had the disease in the first place and thus not needing to be cured from it, that would have been his clear preference.

Then there is the less typical type of situation, where a person not only thanks the Almighty for being healed, but he even thanks Hashem for the original makka (plague) which necessitated the refuah (healing). Moshe Rabbeinu now looks back at what happened when he went to Pharaoh, resulting in Pharaoh making it worse. The fact that Pharaoh made it worse, in the end, turned out to be good for Klal Yisrael. Because of the intensification of the enslavement, their decreed period of enslavement in Mitzraim was reduced from 400 years to 210 years.

Not only that, says the Beis HaLevi, but the fact is that now when we look back, we can see that we were not only saved from Egyptian slavery, but we were the conduit of an extraordinary Kiddush Hashem. The Shiras HaYam is all about the fact that through the events of the Krias Yam Suf (Splitting of the Reed Sea) and Yetzias Mitzraim, the Ribono shel Olam’s name was glorified. “People heard – they were agitated; terror gripped the dwellers of Phillistia” (Shemos 15:14) – look at what we have accomplished!

Moshe Rabbeinu says that now we are not only giving praise to Hashem for being saved, but we are also giving praise for the entire process – m’az – from the time that I first came to Pharaoh. I originally complained about the trials and tribulations, but now I am giving praise about those very trials and tribulations – because by virtue of the enslavement and all of its associated difficulties, the geulah (redemption) from that enslavement becomes all the greater Kiddush Hashem (Sanctification of the Name of G-d), which is the mission statement of Klal Yisrael, namely, to be the vehicle of Kiddush Shem Shamayim in the world.

This was not merely a “Thanks for curing me of the illness” scenario. This was a case of “Thanks for the illness as well as for the cure.”

It is very difficult for us to relate to this idea of “Thanks for the illness…”, but I will tell you a true story:

Rav Baruch Sorotzkin, zt”l, was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland until the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, he contracted cancer. He put up a valiant fight and went through a tremendous ordeal. He survived for some time, but he eventually succumbed to the disease. His Rebbetzin said that her husband had commented, “If someone would have asked me to pay him a million dollars before I went through this whole illness and treatment ordeal to avoid the misery, I would have been willing to pay it. However, after having experienced it, if someone would offer me a million dollars to not have experienced it, I would be unwilling to accept his offer.

Why?! He said that he grew tremendously from the whole experience. He saw the Hand of Hashem and he grew as a person. He gained in patience, endurance and emunah. That was worth more than a million dollars to him.

The truth is that sometimes I see this among ordinary people – who are not Roshei Yeshiva or great tzadikim. Sometimes people who experienced terrible sicknesses, at the end of the day, at the other side of those painful experiences, say that they would not trade the experience for anything, because of the personal growth they experienced along with the trauma and challenge of the ordeal. This is a lot easier said than done. I think it is far from a universal approach. But at times, people do talk like that and actually feel like that.

This is what Moshe Rabbeinu is saying over here: I complained with “az” because I thought “What is this about?” But now in hindsight, I am going to say shirah with the word “az“, giving praise and thanksgiving to the Ribono shel Olam for the entire ordeal.

In truth, we say this in Hallel: “I thank You for You have inflicted pain upon me…” (Tehillim 118:21) What do those words mean? I’m thanking Hashem because He tortured me?!?

We should not need to experience such nisyonos (Divine tests), but it is possible for even “regular human beings” to experience an ordeal and say it was a positive growth experience, despite all the challenges.

By Spirituality, the More You Put In, the More You Take Out

I saw the following Medrash (which I have never heard of before) brought down in a sefer called Ateres Dudaim by Rav Dovid Zucker of Chicago. He brings this Medrash from a sefer called Sefer Le’Hagid.

The pasuk says that the mann came down, each person gathered every morning what they needed for their daily consumption, and then the heat of the sun melted the (remaining) mann. (Shemos 16:21)

The Mechilta explains that the remaining mann turned into liquid, which flowed into the rivers. The deer would drink the water from those rivers. The gentile nations would hunt these deer, eat them, and thereby taste the mann. It was the best venison they ever tasted, and they thereby appreciated the elevated status of the Jews. That is what the Mechilta says.

The Sefer Le’Hagid brings down the following incredible Medrash:

There was a young fellow who was bored being cooped up in the Jewish encampment in the Wilderness and left the encampment. He hiked over to the area where children of Amon lived. He was very hungry and they fed him deer that had drunk the water from the rivers containing melted mann. He tasted the deer and was overwhelmed by its outstanding taste. He returned to the Jewish camp and told his friends, “There is no need to stay here the whole time. I left, I visited Amon, and I tasted deer like I never tasted in my entire life.”

Moshe Rabbeinu noticed that this young fellow had a crowd around him and investigated what was going on. Moshe asked him to explain what was so special about the taste of the deer’s meat. The young fellow answered that he could not explain it, but it was the best taste he ever experienced in his life. Moshe told him, “I will tell you what was so special about that deer’s meat.” Moshe explained that the deer tasted so special because it drank water that contained the melted mann. Moshe told the young man that he was a fool. “Why do you seek merely a facsimile of mann when you can have the real thing?” That is the end of this Medrash.

There are two questions that can be asked about this Medrashic story: First, why was this fellow so impressed with the taste of the deer? Why did he not have that same out-of-this-world sensation when he tasted the mann itself? Second, what is the point of this Medrash? What is it trying to teach us?

Rav Zucker answered these questions by quoting a vort that Rav Shimon Schwab said over from the Chofetz Chaim. (Rav Schwab said this vort at the chanukas habayis (dedication) of the new Beis Medrash of Ner Israel in 1980.) Rav Schwab spent a single Shabbos in Radin with the Chofetz Chaim, from which he came away with a career’s worth of drashos (homiletic insights).

It was Parshas Beshalach. Rav Schwab asked the Chofetz Chaim about our Medrash, which said that the mann tasted like whatever the person who consumed it wanted it to taste. Rav Schwab asked the Chofetz Chaim, “What if a person is not thinking anything?” The Chofetz Chaim responded “ Az mi tracht nisht; hut kin taam nisht.” (When you don’t think, it has no flavor.)

The mann was a spiritual type of food. By spirituality, the more you put in, the more you get out. If a person puts nothing in, he gets nothing out. Az mi tracht nisht – if someone does not want to grow from the experience of eating the mann, hut kin taam nisht – you get nothing out of it.

This is the way it is with all spiritual matters. A person can learn a blatt Gemara by mumbling or racing through it, and not get such a geshmak (pleasurable experience) from it. But when someone sweats over a piece of Gemara and puts all of his effort into understanding it, his experience will be totally different. Since it is a spiritual matter, the more a person puts in, the more he takes out.

This fellow was not thinking about anything when he ate the mann. Therefore, he got nothing out of it. A person who is involved in a davar ruchni (spiritual endeavor) needs to invest. Shabbos is great. Oneg Shabbos is a taste of the World to Come. But what a person gets out of Shabbos depends on what a person puts into a Shabbos. If a person puts nothing into a Shabbos, he gets nothing out of a Shabbos. The more a person puts into Shabbos, the more he takes out. That is the way it is with every davar ruchni.

When this fellow went to Amon and ate the deer, it was a davar gashmi (physical experience). It had a special flavor, but it was a gashmi flavor. By gashmiyus matters, it is easy come, easy go. It is instant gratification. Is it ‘fun’ to watch a football game? Is it ‘fun’ to play video games? Yes, it’s ‘fun’. You enjoy it, but how long does it last? It is ephemeral. A person can sit there for hours and watch the game, but what does he gain from the experience? However, in spiritual matters, there is no instant gratification. If we want to accomplish a davar ruchni, we must invest – thought and effort. Az mi tracht nisht; hut min gornisht!

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Beshalach is provided below:

  • # 041 Israel’s Wars: 1948-1973, A Halachic Perspective
  • # 084 The Mitzvah of Krias HaTorah
  • # 132 Standing for Krias Hatorah
  • # 179 Female Vocalists: The Problem of Kol Isha
  • # 225 Music in Halacha
  • # 269 Lechem Mishnah
  • # 315 The Prohibition of Living in Egypt
  • # 359 Making Ice On Shabbos
  • # 403 Three Slices of Pizza–Must You Bench?
  • # 447 Hidur Mitzvah
  • # 491 The Three Seudos of Shabbos
  • # 535 Using P’sukim for Nigunim?
  • # 579 Being Motzi Others in Lechem Mishan and Other Brachos
  • # 623 Kiddush or Netilas Yadayim – Which Comes First?
  • # 667 The Supernatural and the “Mun” dane
  • # 711 Shlishi or Shishi? and Other Aliyah Issues
  • # 755 Techum Shabbos: Wearing Your Hat to the Hospital
  • # 799 Kibud Av – Can A Father Be Mochel?
  • # 843 Shalosh Seudos in the Morning?
  • # 887 Rejoicing At The Death of Reshoim -Recommended or Not?
  • # 931 K’rias Hatorah – Must You Listen?
  • # 974 Bracha of Ga’aal Yisroel Before Shemoneh Esrai−Silent or Out loud?
  • #1018 Bracha Achrona: How Soon Must You Say It?
  • #1062 Shalosh Seudos: Where and With What?
  • #1105 The Shabbos Seuda On A No-Carb Diet
  • #1148 Kol Isha – Listening To A Female Vocalist on the Radio
  • #1191 Was Devorah Really a Dayan? How Did She Learn That Much Torah?
  • #1235 Are women obligated in Lechem Mishneh?
  • #1279 Parshas Zachor for Women After Davening & Other Krias HaTorah Issues
  • #1323 Lechem Mishna: What Exactly Is the Mitzva? Are Women Obligated? Must you Make Your Own Bracha on Your Slice?
  • #1367 An Interesting Asher Yatzar Shaila
  • #1411 Hiring a Snow Plow to Remove Your Snow-Even on Shabbos?
  • #1455 Should You Correct The Baal Koreh If He Makes a Mistake?
  • #1499 Feeding the Birds on Shabbos Shira: Good Idea or Asur?
  • #1542 Why We Cover the Challos at the Shabbos Meal?

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