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ויסעו מאילם ויבאו כל עדת בני ישראל אל מדבר סין... בחמשה עשר יום לחדש השני לצאתם מארץ מצרים... וילנו כל עדת בני ישראל על משה ועל אהרן

As they journeyed from Eilim, and they came, the whole congregation of Bnei Yisrael, unto the wilderness of Sin… on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of Bnei Yisrael murmured against Moshe and Aharon in the wilderness. (16:1,2)

Kol adas Bnei Yisrael, the whole congregation of Bnei Yisrael, explains Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, refers to the Jewish community in its entirety, in its highest meaning as a community united by its common mission. It is a community which is designated to be the “congregation” of Hashem. Thus, by using such vernacular to describe the Jewish People, the Torah implies from the get-go that the events to be recorded impact the interest of the general mission of the whole Klal Yisrael to the highest degree. It is for this reason that the Torah makes a point of underscoring…

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התיצבו וראו את ישועת ד'

Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem. (14:13)

Ibn Ezra writes: “You shall not wage war. You will see the salvation that Hashem will make for you.” How is it possible for a nation of 600,000 men (over the age of twenty-years old) to just stand there and not fight their aggressors? The answer is that these people knew the Egyptians as their masters who lorded over them. It was impossible for the Jews who knew nothing about warfare to battle their Egyptian masters. Amalek attacked the Jews, and, without Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayers, he would have dealt them a weakening blow. Likewise, these Jewish expatriated slaves could not…

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ויצעקו בני ישראל אל ד'

Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem. (14:10)

The Midrash Tanchuma (9) teaches that when Klal Yisrael saw that their situation was dire, they grasped the umnos, “profession,” of their ancestors/Patriarchs and reached out to Hashem through the vehicle of prayer. The efficacy of prayer cannot be overstated. It should not be our last – but rather, our first – resort. A Jew speaks to Hashem, his Father in Heaven, through the medium of prayer. Chazal are teaching us, however, that the Jewish People turned to Hashem in prayer just because the situation was bleak. How is this to be compared to the prayers of our Patriarchs, who…

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ויהפך לבב פרעה ועבדיו אל העם

And the heart of Pharaoh and his servants became transformed regarding the people. (14:5)

What possessed Pharaoh to pursue the Jewish People, whom he had just (forced by Hashem) released from bondage? What was running through his mind when he made such an about-face? He had just suffered ten devastating plagues, with the death of the firstborn Egyptians striking very close to home. His people were demoralized, his country in ruin; yet, he was chasing the Jews. Did he require more proof of Hashem’s power? He arrived with his soldiers at the banks of the Red Sea and saw that the sea had miraculously split, and the Jews were crossing through on dry land….

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למשמרת לדרתיכם למען יראו את הלחם אשר האכלתי אתכם במדבר

It shall be a keepsake for your generations, so that they will see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness. (16:32)

Throughout the entirety of the human experience on this earth, phenomenon is remotely comparable to the manna. Hashem fed an entire nation for forty years in a wilderness that provided no hope of sustenance. We did receive the slav, quail, from Hashem, but, when one peruses the narrative, it seems that the quail was not a basic necessity for survival. The manna was the Jew’s staple. Hashem commands us to pattern our lives after those who ate the manna, the ochlei mann. Furthermore, Moshe Rabbeinu instructed Aharon HaKohen to place the tzintzenes ha’mann, a jar of manna, before the Testimony,…

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ויאמר ד' אל משה נטה את ידך על הים וישבו המים על מצרים

Hashem said to Moshe, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, and the water will go back over Egypt. (14:26)

Upon perusing the narrative surrounding the splitting of the Red Sea, we are confronted with a difficulty. Why did Hashem involve Moshe? Why was his participation in the splitting necessary? Hashem smote the Egyptian firstborn by Himself: no messenger, no angel. Why should this be different? In this situation, we find Hashem instructing Moshe to raise up his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea, so that it would split. Undoubtedly, it was Hashem Who split the sea. Why then was Moshe involved? Horav Nissim Yagen, zl, explains that herein lies a profound insight. If we were to…

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וישם את הים לחרבה ויבקעו המים

And He turned the sea to damp land and the water split. (14:21)

The Midrash (Socheir Tov 114) states that the waters of the Red Sea split when they saw arono shel Yosef, the coffin of Yosef, which was being transported to Eretz Yisrael for burial. At first, the waters remained in place, despite the presence of Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon HaKohen and all of Klal Yisrael. Only after the waters took note of the presence of Yosef’s coffin did they “agree” to split. David HaMelech immortalized this tete-a-tete in Tehillim (114:3), Hayam raah va’yanoss, “The sea saw and fled.” “What did the sea see? It saw arono shel Yosef.” What was it about…

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ופרעה הקריב וישאו בני ישראל את עיניהם והנה מצרים נסע אחריהם וייראו מאד ויצעקו בני ישראל אל ד'

Pharaoh approached, Bnei Yisrael raised their eyes and behold! Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem. (14:10)

Did it have to be this way? Finally, after 210 years of brutal enslavement, the Jews were leaving. It was a happy day, but it did not last very long. A few days later, when the Jews were standing at the banks of the Red Sea, suddenly Pharaoh and his minions were chasing after them. Understandably, the nation broke out in all-consuming fear followed by their audible crying to Hashem. We return to our opening question: Did it have to be this way? Chazal (Shemos Rabbah 21:5) ask this and give a simple, but profound, explanation: Hashem desires the prayers…

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וידי משה כבדים ויקחו אבן וישימו תחתיו וישב עליה

The hands of Moshe were heavy, and they took a stone, placed it beneath him, and he sat upon it. (17:12)

We can distinguish between those mitzvos that are incumbent upon man in his relationship with Hashem – bein adam laMakom; and those mitzvos that involve interpersonal relationships – bein adam lachaveiro. The basis for mitzvos bein adam laMakom is Hashem. He desires our service. The root of mitzvos bein adam la’chaveiro is V’halachta bidrachav, “You shall emulate His ways” (Devarim 11:22). Hashem interacts with our world by sharing our pain. With regard to interpersonal relationships, this trait is called nosei b’ol im chaveiro, sharing/carrying the burden with one’s fellow. During the Revelation that accompanied the Giving of the Torah on…

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ויושע ד' ביום ההוא את ישראל מיד מצרים וירא ישראל את מצרים מת על שפת הים

On that day, Hashem saved Yisrael from the hand of Egypt, and Yisrael saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. (14:30)

Pesach and Purim occur a month apart on the Jewish calendar, but the mode of celebration of each differs greatly. This is because each manifested a different mode of celebration, with regard to our emerging triumphant over our enemies. On Purim, we celebrate the day that Haman’s evil decree was annulled, the day asher nacha mei’oyiveihem, “they rested from their enemies”; in contrast, on both the first and seventh day of Pesach, we celebrate the destruction of our enemies. During the seder night, the firstborn of Egypt perished. Nary was there a home that did not reek of death. Our…

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