Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Parshas Beshalach 5778

Who Was Pharaoh Talking To?

The Torah writes (Exodus 14:3):
Pharaoh will say to the Israelites, “They are astray in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.”
Rashi (ibid) explains:
לבני ישראל means על בני ABOUT THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. Similarly. (v. 14) “The Lord will fight לכם”, i. e. עליכם for you; (Genesis 20:13) “Say לי, he is my brother” i. e. say about me.
However, Targum Jonathan (ibid) explains differently:
And Pharoh said to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Israel, who had remained in Mizraim, The people of the house of Israel are bewildered in the land: the idol Zephon hath shut them in close upon the desert.
Midrashim (Midrash HaGadol Korach, Shemos Rabbah 1:29) also write that Dathan and Abiram ultimately rejoined the Jewish people prior to the Splitting of the Sea and they were the ones who complained to Moshe (2:11).

Beer Mayim Chaim writes that the Sea split for them a second time, because they cross AFTER the Egyptians were drowned and that's also explains the discrepancy of the order of the verses right before the Song.

(There is also discussion in Sefer haHefetz [2:13] that Moshe asked Hashem to save some of the Jewish children being killed, and Dathan and Aviram were choosen; also Sefer Rokeach writes that Dathan and Aviram did not die during the plague of Darkness because they believe in the Exodus)

(It is also interesting to note that Moshe's children and wife did not experience the splitting of the Sea according to the some opinions)

Why Did the Wind Blow Before the Sea Split?

The Torah writes (Exodus 14:21):
Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split
The Ramban (ibid) writes:
It was G-d's will that the sea should be split with an east wind so it looked like that wind caused the splitting .... for it was because of this the Egyptians thought that the wind caused the splitting and not the hand of G-d that did it because of the Jews...
The Rashbam (ibid) disagrees:
G’d used natural means, i.e. an east wind which always brings dryness and on occasions dries out ponds and rivers.
The Sforno (ibid) explains that it wasn't for the splitting:
the east wind had frozen the mud on the bottom of the sea
(see also this journal article that describes how a land bridge could have stayed open for 4 hours due to wind)

How Was the Manna Cooked?

The Torah writes (Exodus 16:23):
he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy sabbath of the LORD. Bake what you would bake and boil what you would boil; and all that is left put aside to be kept until morning.”
However, above it says it would melt (Exodus 16:21):
So they gathered it every morning, each as much as he needed to eat; for when the sun grew hot, it would melt.

Whom Did Amalek Attack?

The Torah writes (Exodus 17:8):
Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.
The Torah writes later on (Deu. 25:17-18):
Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt - how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear.
Midrash Tanchuma (Ki Seitzei 10) explains:

Rabbi Yehuda says: anyone who gave up hope was attacked; Rabbi Nechemiah says: anyone who was expelled by the cloud was attacked; And the Rabbis say: the entire tribe of Dan was expelled by the cloud for they all were idol worshippers and they were attacked
Midrash Mekhilta (17:8) writes:
R. Elazar Hamodai says: "And Amalek came": Amalek "sneaked" under the edges of the cloud, kidnapped Jews and killed them

Haftorah - How Could Yael Kill Sisera if They Had a Peace Treaty?

(This question was originally asked by my daughter)
Tanach writes (Judges 4:17-21):
Sisera, meanwhile, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was friendship between King Jabin of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael came out to greet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in here, do not be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. He said to her, “Please let me have some water; I am thirsty.” She opened a skin of milk and gave him some to drink; and she covered him again. He said to her, “Stand at the entrance of the tent. If anybody comes and asks you if there is anybody here, say ‘No.’” Then Jael wife of Heber took a tent pin and grasped the mallet. When he was fast asleep from exhaustion, she approached him stealthily and drove the pin through his temple till it went down to the ground. Thus he died.
Chomas Anach (The Chidah - ibid 4:21) answers:
And Mahari z"l answers that there was peace with Jabin and no one else. And he also answers that Sisera attacked Yael and she killed him in self defense ...
The Malbim (ibid 4:17) answers:
And I say according to my opinion that the peace between Jabin and Heber was a general peace with the Kenites who dwelled in the desert of Judah ... but now that Heber separated from the rest of this brothers and pitched his tent among the Jews he was no longer obligated to keep the treaty of the Kenites for he left them.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Parshas Shemos 5778

Some interesting points regarding Parshas Shemos:

1. Who Was Exempt from the Labor in Egypt?
According to many Midrashim, the entire Shevet Levi was exempt, either because they were consider a priestly class and were exempt as per Joseph's original decrees, OR because they did not show up during the first day when the "volunteer" rebuilding efforts started, and were not enrolled as "volunteers" who later became slaves. In return, however, they population did not experience a great increase in numbers.

However, we also know that parts of Shevet Ephraim tried to leave Egypt 30 years before the Exodus, and they were killed during a war with the native population of Canaan. The valley where they were killed was the valley of "dry bones" that Yehezkel saw in his dream. How did they leave if they were slaves? Some midrashim state that parts of Shevet Ephraim were except from slavery because they were descendants of the royal viceroy - Joseph.

2. How Many Children Did Yocheved Have?
According to the Torah, she had three children: Miriam, Aharon and Moshe. However, Targum Jonathan writes that after the birth of Aharon, Amram and Yocheved were divorced, and she married someone else (Elizaphan) with whom she had two sons: Eldad and Medad. She divorced Elizaphan and re-married Amram, at which point she gave birth to Moshe. Thus, Yocheved had five children: Miriam, Aharon and Moshe with Amram, and Eldad and Medad with Elizaphan.

3. Yisro, Tziporrah and their relatives.
After Moshe ran away from Egypt, he ended up living in Yisro's house and marrying his daughter, Tziporrah. Many meforshim point out that Yisro is a descendant of Midian. It is interesting to note that Midian was a son of Avraham from his third wife, Keturah, which would make Moshe and his wife distant cousins.

There are also some Midrashim that discuss that Tziporrah and Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh, were in fact sisters who were orphaned and ended up being adapted by Yisro and Pharaoh respectively. This must have taken place when Yisro was still living in Egypt and was Pharaoh's advisor.

There is also an interesting connection between Tziporrah and Balak. According to the some midrashim, Balak was a grandson of Yisro, which would make his father, Tzipor a brother to Tziporrah, with their names being identical.