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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
Email kornfeld@jencom.com

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This issue of Parasha-Page has been dedicated by Dr. Seymour (Simcha) Bekelnitzky, of Kew Gardens Hills N.Y., for the Yahrzeit of his mother (Layah bas Mordechai Dovid A"H), 16 Shevat.

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PARASHAT BESHALACH 5757 WITH A SINGLE HEART


"The Bnai Yisrael lifted their eyes, and behold, Egypt was coming after them" -- The singular form ("Egypt was") is used in this verse in order to denote that Egypt pursued the Jews with one heart, as one man. (Rashi, Shmot 14:10)

"And Yisrael camped [Vayichan] there, opposite the mountain [Mount Sinai, to receive the Torah]" -- The singular form of the word "camped" is used in this verse in order to denote that the Jewish People camped as one man, with one heart. (Rashi to Shmot 19:2)

In both the hot Egyptian pursuit of the Jewish nation and the Jewish encampment pending the Giving of the Torah, an entire nation acted in unison "as a single person." On the different occasions, however, Rashi reverses the order of the phrase describing this unity. The Egyptians chased the Jews "with one heart, as one man," while the Jews prepared to receive the Torah "as one man, with one heart." What is the significance of the different phraseologies?

Rashi is accenting the difference between the unity of the Jews and the unity of the Egyptians. The Jewish People are inherently united at their roots, it is natural for them to behave "as one man." Before receiving the Torah, though, they were also united in heart -- that is, in their passion to hear the word of Hashem. At that point, in addition to their *prior* unity "as one man," they were united "with one heart" (i.e. goal, desire).

The Egyptians, on the other hand, were naturally in a state of discord. They were united only in their common goal of the destruction of Yisrael. *Because* Egypt was united "with one heart" (i.e. goal, desire), they acted in unison "as one man." (Hagaon Rav Avrhaham Borenstein, the Sochatchover Rebbe, d. 1911)

II


In what way are the Jewish People inherently united? Rashi (Bereishit 46:26) tells us, "Esav had but six members in his family, yet the verse calls them 'Nefashot' -- souls (pl.) -- since they served many Gods. Yakov had seventy in his family, yet the verse calls them 'Nefesh' -- soul (s.) -- because they served one G-d.." As Rashi explains in more detail in Devarim (33:19 s.v. Usphunei), it is the unique service of the One G-d based on the Torah's guidelines that unites the Jews. Unlike the Jews, pagans and idolaters have no Divine rulebook that defines their role in the service of the Creator. Each of them experiences his religion in the way *he* pleases and no common goal is shared. "Who is like Your nation, Yisrael, a *single* nation in the land" (Shmuel II:7:23 -- see Berachot 6a).

Since the Torah is what unites the Jews, the closer Jews are to the Torah the more closely they are united. The Rambam tells us (Perush Hamishnayot, D'mai 2:3), "A Torah scholar is referred to as "Chaver" [= friend] and a group of scholars are called "Chaveirim." Perhaps they are known by this name because their friendship is a true and lasting one, since it is a friendship for the sake of serving Hashem." (See also Kiddushin 30b Rashi s.v. "Es Vahev" -- an argument over the meaning of a Halachah ends in love; Yevamot 14b, Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel were close friends, as the verse says, "Ha'emes Ve'hashalom Ahavu"; Bava Metzia 84a, Rav Yochanan was affected by the passing of Resh Lakish, his partner in Torah study, more than by the passing of his ten sons [in Berachot 5b].

The Rambam's source can be found in the Mishnah in Avos 5:16, "Any love that is not dependent on a thing, will be everlasting." The Rambam explains the Mishnah to mean, "When the love between two people stems from a spiritual source, i.e. the knowledge of Hashem's ways, since the cause of the love will never cease, the love itself will never cease as well." Idol worship, which is practiced for personal gain and not for altruistic motives, cannot possibly create a lasting unity. This is what makes the other nations inherently divided and the Jewish People inherently united.

Even when a Jew does not keep the Torah, the Torah unites him at heart with all other Jews. The Rambam (Hilchot Gerushin 2:20) tells us that if one does not agree to divorce his wife when he is obligated to do so, he is beaten until he agrees to the divorce. Although a divorce performed under coercion is not acceptable, this forced divorce which is dictated by the Halachah is accepted. "As a member of Yisrael," the Rambam tells us, "the husband certainly wants to observe *all* of the Mitzvot (including divorcing his wife when he is required to do so), but for his evil inclination which has overpowered him. When he has been beaten until his inclination has been weakened and he says, "I'll divorce her!," it is looked upon as though he has agreed of his own accord." The inner desire of all Jews is the same: to perform Hashem's Mitzvot to their fullest.

III



This is the reason that the Torah emphasizes the unity of the Jews immediately prior to their receiving of the Torah. Just as unity is *brought about* by the service of the One Hashem, so too, it is a *prerequisite* for accepting the yolk of His service. It was due to their unity that the Jews were able to receive the Torah and fully accept the Mitzvot of Hashem.

The unity of the Egyptians can be explained in a similar manner. Hashem intended to show His presence to the Egyptians at the Red Sea so that they may realize that the Jewish nation is indeed His chosen nation. ("This is why I have allowed you [Paraoh] to survive; that you may see My power and tell the entire world of My Name" -- Shmot 9:16.) In order for them to perceive the Presence of Hashem and accept His Majesty, it was first necessary for them to be united. Their unity for the sake of the destruction of the Jewish nation served as a prerequisite for their unity in the realization of the One G-d -- "Hashem Echad!"


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