Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Beshalach

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Shemos 13:18 the Torah writes "Vayasev Elokim es ha'am derech hamidbar yam suf vachamushim alu v'nei yisrael mei'eretz mitzrayim." Rashi comments on the word "vachamushim" that the Jews were armed with weapons. However, this concept is difficult to understand as the Torah does not recite anywhere that the Jews either had or took weapons from Egypt when they left.

R' Frand answered this question by quoting R' Berel Soloveitchik (who said in the name of his father the Brisker Rav) that the Jews were armed with the z'chus (merit) of carrying with them Yosef's bones.

R' Frand followed this by citing to a ma'amar chazal on the line in hallel "Hayam Ra'ah Vayanos." He stated that the yam ran (Vayanos) because the Jews were carrying Yosef's bones. It is written in Bereishis that Yosef ran outside (Vayanos Hachutza) when Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce him. Chazal teach that in the merit of Yosef's running away from sin, the yam ran away from the Jews.

In the sefer Shemen Hatov, R' Weinberg asks why the Jews needed the z'chus of Yosef to cause the sea to split? Didn't they have the z'chus of Nachshon who bravely walked into the water until it was up to his nose before the sea finally split? Wasn't this a great merit since Nachshon indicated that he believed so firmly that Hashem would make a miracle that he was willing to potentially sacrifice his life in an effort to prove that Hashem would save the Jewish people?

R' Weinberg answers that there are two distinct forms of acting "al kiddush Hashem." One form of kiddush Hashem is by giving up one's life al kiddush Hashem. The other form is the person who lives "al kiddush Hashem." The person who gives up his life gets a great reward for his actions because he dies to sanctify Hashem's name. However, once the person has given up his life, the act is complete.

In sharp contrast is the person who decides to take an action which sanctifies Hashem's name, but will not cause his own death. This person takes an action which he knows will have repercussions for many years, repercussions that he will have to live with and endure. This was the z'chus of Yosef. Yosef chose to resist the urge to sin with Potiphar's wife, knowing full well that he would be punished as a result. By resisting, Yosef voluntarily committed himself to a prison sentence which he knew could potentially last the rest of his life. Despite the fact that a long term punishment awaited him, Yosef chose to live "al kiddush Hashem" and as such his z'chus is great.

Rabbi Frand closed by comparing the act of the yam to Yosef. Yosef resisted human nature by ignoring the human desire for self preservation and choosing to act morally. Similalry, the yam, in staying open (rather than continuing to flow) also resisted its nature and allowed the Jews to pass without swallowing them up.

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