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P A R A S H A - P A G E
by Mordecai Kornfeld
of Har Nof, Jerusalem
Founder of the Dafyomi Advancement Forum

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The "Shabbos Shirah" Parasha-Page has been dedicated by Gitle Bekelnitzky of Queens, New York, in memory of Leah bas Mordechai David (Yahrzeit: 16 Shevat), mother of Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky, both of blessed memory. "TORAH FROM THE INTERNET," by RABBI MORDECAI KORNFELD, is available @now@ at a HEBREW BOOKSTORE near you, or from the publisher, JUDAICAPR@AOL.COM ============================================================ PARASHAT BESHALACH 5758

Then Moshe and the Jewish People sang this song [of praise] to Hashem, saying, "I sing to Hashem, for He is mightier than any other; horse and rider He tossed in the sea!"
(Shemot 15:1)

In what was perhaps the most miraculous exhibition of Divine power in history, Hashem simultaneously saved the Jewish Nation from certain destruction and dealt their oppressors an appropriate punishment. The sea, which split for the Jews to cross, returned to its former state just in time to send the members of the pursuing Egyptian army to their watery deaths. The Torah recounts the long and beautiful song of praise the Moshe and the Jewish People sang to Hashem upon their salvation. This makes the Gemara in Sanhedrin, which criticizes the Jews for not praising Hashem properly after their redemption, all the more puzzling.

It is shameful for Moshe and the 600,000 Jews that they did not say "Blessed [is Hashem]" until Yitro came and said, "Blessed is Hashem, [who saved you from the hand of Egypt and the hand of Pharaoh....] (Shemot 18:10)"
(Sanhedrin 94a)

What did the Jews omit from their exquisite Song of the Splitting of the Sea that Yitro added? Why should Yitro's statement of praise cause them embarrassment? In order to better understand this Gemara, we must first analyze the anatomy of a praise.


There are two entirely different ways to sing to Hashem upon His salvation. This is evident from a Gemara elsewhere:

"Exalt Hashem all peoples, praise Him all nations, for He has done great kindness unto us (Tehillim 117:1)." What business do the nations of the world have [thanking Hashem for what He did for *us* -Rashi]?

The verse means to say as follows: "Exalt Hashem all peoples, praise Him all nations" -- who beheld the powerful and wondrous acts that He has done [for us -Rashi] -- all the more so us, for whom those acts were done.
(Pesachim 118b)

What is the meaning of the Gemara's answer? The gentiles are still described as offering praise to Hashem for what He did to *us*!

The Brisker Rav (Harav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik of Brisk/Jerusalem as cited by Emek Berachah, p. 123) explains that there are two ways to show appreciation for Hashem's miraculous salvation. The first is to *thank* Hashem for His redemption. This, however, is only appropriate for the person (or people) who actually benefited from the redemption. The second way is to sing the *glory* of Hashem, Who has performed wonders and demonstrated His unlimited power. This is appropriate for *all* who witness the miracle, whether they personally benefited from it or not.

This is the point that the Gemara means to make. The non-Jews will not be able to *thank* Hashem for His miraculous salvation, but they will be able to *glorify* Him.


The Brisker Rav's grandfather, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Beis Halevi, Parashat Beshalach), similarly distinguishes between these two types of song with relation to the Song of the Splitting of the Sea.

When Moshe's initial plea to Pharaoh to free the Jews was met with scoffing and antagonism, Moshe complained to Hashem, saying, "From then ('Az') that I came before Pharaoh to speak in Your name, things have just gotten worse for the nation!" The Midrash (Shemot Raba 23:3) says of this, "Moshe said before Hashem, "I know that I sinned before You when I used the word 'Az.'... therefore I shall praise you with the word 'Az' -- '*Az*' (Then) Moshe and the Jewish People sang...." What is unique about Moshe's praise for Hashem that made it a proper repentance for his original sin?

The Beis Halevi explains that when Hashem performs a miracle and saves a person, the person's reaction reflects a major difference in attitude. If the person *thanks* Hashem for his salvation, he is obviously thanking Hashem for being *removed* from the uncomfortable situation that he was previously in. He is no happier, though, than he would have been had he not suffered in the first place. On the other hand, if the person *glorifies* Hashem, singing praises to Hashem for the miraculous salvation that He brought about, he is able to appreciate the suffering as well as the salvation. Had he not suffered, he would not have been privileged to witness this demonstration of Hashem's glory!

Moshe originally complained that it was not justified for the Jews to undergo suffering. He repented for this sin when he sang the *glory of Hashem* starting with the word 'Az.' When Moshe saw the awe-inspiring salvation that came about through the suffering of the Jews, he was able to appreciate not only their salvation, but the need for their original suffering as well.

In either case, the Song of the Splitting of the Sea is clearly a song of glorification, rather than a song of thanks. From beginning to end the song is rife with descriptions of the might of Hashem, but devoid of words of thanks. This, suggests Rav Yosef Salant (of Jerusalem, Be'er Yosef Parashat Yitro), explains the Gemara with which we began our discussion. Yitro's words of thanks added an important element to the song of the Jews. Although the exalted theme of their song is clearly a reflection of the nation's lofty spiritual level, the Jews should not have considered it adequate to sing the *glory* of Hashem alone. After being the subject of a miraculous salvation, they should have also *thanked* Hashem for saving them from their terrible ordeal. Yitro saw this need, and taught the Jews to *thank* Hashem for their salvation as well.


Why indeed did the Jewish People have to wait for Yitro to teach them this important lesson? Why did they bring upon themselves the "shame" of not *thanking* Hashem immediately for His salvation? We may suggest the following approach.

The Gemara in Sotah (30b) explains that when the Jews sang the Song of the Splitting of the Sea, Moshe led them in song. We find that Moshe was the epitome of modesty (Bamidbar 12:3, Chulin 89a). He negated his personal desires *entirely* before the will of Hashem; he had no other will than to bring about a greater appreciation for Hashem on earth. Even his interest in entering the Holy Land was solely in order to perform the unique Mitzvot that can be performed only there (Sotah 14a). Moshe, then, felt no sense of personal pain over his plight, nor joy over his salvation from the Egyptian oppressors. The splitting of the sea was to him no more than an awesome display of the might of Hashem to the entire world. He was perfectly justified in not mentioning personal thanks to Hashem for His salvation.

Why, then, does the Gemara criticize the Jews for their omission of thanks to Hashem? Because although Moshe felt no personal suffering or relief due to his lofty spiritual level, the Jews certainly *did* experience such feelings. Accordingly, they should have thanked Hashem for the salvation as well. Moshe is therefore criticized for the way he led the Jews in praise because his nation was not as selfless as he, and the nation is criticized for not realizing of their own accord the need to *thank* Hashem for the salvation that they experienced.

May Hashem continue to save us from all harm, and demonstrate to the nations of the world his might, speedily in our days!

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Mordecai Kornfeld |Email:| Tl/Fx(02)6522633
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