Friday, January 10, 2014
BeShalach 5631 Second Ma'amar
“דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיָשֻׁבוּ .../Speak to the children of
Israel and they will return …” (Shmos 14:2) The children of Israel
had left Egypt three days earlier. God commands Moshe Rabbeinu to instruct the
nation to turn around and head back towards the Egyptians. Pharaoh will think that the nation has lost
its way in the desert and will be goaded into pursuing them. When he confronts the nation of Israel,
God will destroy him and the Egyptians.
The obvious question as we read these p’sukim is, “Why?” What was to be gained by returning? If God wanted to destroy the Egyptian army,
He certainly had ample opportunity to do so before.
The miracle of the Exodus happened very quickly. Although the Egyptians suffered from plagues for a full year beforehand, our role in the Exodus began only a few days before we actually left Egypt when God commanded us to take lambs for the Pesach sacrifice. We left
Egypt so quickly, the Torah
relates, that there was no time even for our bread to rise. Things that happen quickly rather than
gradually tend not to have a lasting impact especially when they are not
earned; at this stage we certainly had not earned the redemption. God wanted the redemption from Egypt to become
a part of us. The lesson we needed to
take with us was that God is always with us, an especially encouraging lesson
in times of distress when this fundamental fact is not apparent. We could truly internalize this lesson, only
if we left Egypt
on our own merit. This is why God
commanded us to return; in order to earn the redemption.
Chazal allude to this idea when they say that at the time of the splitting of the sea we were being judged whether to be saved or destroyed with the Egyptians. This also explains why we were afraid and cried out to God when we saw the approaching Egyptian army. Considering all the miracles we witnessed in
it is clear that we had not the slightest doubt in God’s ability to save us
from the Egyptians. Why, then, did we
cry out to God in fear? The reason is
because we doubted ourselves. We were
not sure if we really deserved to be saved.
It is possible that this doubt was the reason we complained to Moshe Rabbeinu
for having taken us out of Egypt,
כִּי טוֹב לָנוּ עֲבֹד אֶת־מִצְרַיִם מִמֻּתֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר/…
for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians that to die in the desert.” (Shmos
14:12) Why were we redeemed before
we merited it? We could have stayed in
Egypt until we were deserving of redemption.
Also, God had promised Ya’akov that He would redeem his children from Egypt. If we were still in Egypt we would still have had God’s
promise. Now that we had left, this promise
had already been fulfilled, hence our fear at the approaching Egyptian army.
God commanded us to return so that we could leave on our own merit. However, this really only begs the question. Why was the Exodus a two step process? Why redeem us with undeserved miracles first, then redeem us again because we earned it? Why not redeem us once on the basis of our own merits? The Sfas Emes explains that the first miraculous Exodus was needed in order for us to deserve the second redemption at the splitting of the
Sea. The miraculous Exodus
taught us that God is with us. We used
the miraculous Exodus from Egypt to strengthen our faith and trust in God. In the merit of our strong faith and trust in
God, we were saved at the Red Sea.
Chazal use the same concept when they teach us that if Israel would keep two Shabbosim we would immediately be redeemed. For the entire nation to keep two Shabbosim is certainly a great thing but what is the connection between this and redemption? The Chiddushei HaRim answers this question in the name of Rav Shmelke Z"L. First, we need to know that Shabbos is a high level spiritual day. This means that on Shabbos we and the entire Creation are closer to God. It is easier on Shabbos to become more aware of Him that it is during the week. In fact, Shabbos, as a concept, means closeness to God.
God wants us to become close to Him. He wants us to be aware of Him. He also wants us to earn closeness to Him. In order to help us, He first gives us an undeserved experience of closeness to Him. If we take advantage of this experience by using it as a stepping stone to become even closer to God, we are rewarded and God reciprocates.
God gives us Shabbos even though we may not deserve it. We can have an undeserved spiritual experience of closeness to God. Our job, then, is to take advantage of this gift. We do so by drawing the Shabbos experience into the following week. We can use the spiritual experience of Shabbos to help us maintain an awareness of God in our lives during the week as well. Based on our work during the week, we are rewarded with an even greater spiritual experience on the next Shabbos. The second Shabbos is an earned experience. By earning closeness to God, we bring the redemption which by definition is closeness to God.
 See Yechezkel 20:5-9 and Sfas Emes Bo 5631 Second Ma’amar
 Mechilta Beshalach 4
 Shabbos 118b
 Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke HaLevi Horowitz of Nikolsburg (1726 - 2 Iyar 1778) was a major disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. Many of the leading rebbes in
Poland and Galitzia were originally
his disciples. Among the books he authored are Divrei Shmuel and