Va’yaaminu b’Hashem uv’Moshe avdo (Shemos 14:31)
After witnessing the death of their Egyptian pursuers, the Torah testifies that the Jewish people believed in Hashem and His servant Moshe. After a year of witnessing constant miracles during the 10 plagues, how can it be that the Jews hadn’t come to believe in Hashem until this time?
The Alter of Kelm answers that there are two types of belief. One is predicated on intellectual proofs, and one is based on sensory knowledge. He explains the difference between them with a parable about a person who never tasted bread.
If somebody explains to him its texture, taste and filling qualities, he will accept the information intellectually, for he has no evidence to the contrary. If a second person comes and refutes the assertions of the first, the man may be tempted to believe the latter claims. On the other hand, somebody who has himself tasted bread even once and knows first-hand of its ability to satiate won’t be swayed by all of the “rational” arguments in the world that bread does not satisfy.
Similarly, the faith of a person whose belief in Hashem is based on intellectual derivations may be called into question if he is challenged with powerful counter-arguments. Until they reached the Red Sea, the Jews certainly believed in Hashem intellectually, but it was there that they reached the higher level of faith based on sensory knowledge. Rashi writes that the clarity of the revelation at the Red Sea was so great that even the lowest maidservants reached tremendous levels in seeing and experiencing Hashem. This resulted in a completely unshakeable faith that they reached only at that time.
Rashi notes that the Jewish women in Egypt were on a high level of trust in Hashem even before the revelation at the Red Sea. Convinced that they would merit further miracles in the future, they brought along musical instruments to play while singing praises to Hashem.
More recently, there was a tremendous drought in Israel that threatened that year’s entire harvest. This would mean financial ruin for the farmers as well as possible starvation for those left with nothing to eat. Communal fast days and prayers passed but there was still no rain.
With little choice, the Rabbinic leaders ordered everybody to go to the Kosel to pour out their hearts and plead for Divine mercy. After they recited several chapters of Tehillim and other appropriate prayers, the clear sky suddenly grew dark and full of clouds, which shortly gave way to a full-fledged torrential downpour. Those present were so overjoyed by the answering of their prayers that they didn’t even care that they were getting soaked to the bone — all but one elderly, wheelchair-bound chassidic Rebbe who remained completely dry… because he had brought an umbrella!
Life will surely send us many challenges in the areas of health, finances, marriage and children. Although the tests that we receive are beyond our control, we can learn from the Jewish women in Egypt that the choice to persevere through the trials and live each day with happiness and confidence is fully in our hands.
Q: The Mishnah in Avos (5:6) teaches that our ancestors tested Hashem 10 times on their way to Eretz Yisrael, six of which are mentioned in Parashas Beshalach. How many of them can you name?
Q: Are the words (15:1) “Az yashir Moshe u’Vnei Yisrael es ha’shirah hazos l’Hashem vayomru leimor — Then Moshe and the Jewish people sang this song to Hashem, and said the following” considered part of the actual Shiras HaYam, or are they merely an introduction to the song, which begins afterward?
A: The six trials in Parashas Beshalach were when the Jews told Moshe that they would have preferred to remain slaves in Egypt than to die at the hands of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (14:11), when they complained that they had nothing to drink but the bitter waters of Marah (15:24), when they complained when their food supply ran out (16:3), when they left mann over after they were commanded not to (16:20), when they went out to gather mann on Shabbos after they were told there would not be any (16:27), and when they complained to Moshe when they ran out of water in Refidim (17:2). The other four were the sin of the golden calf (32:4), seeking complaints against Hashem in Taveirah (Bamidbar 11:1), craving meat and complaining about the mann (Bamidbar 11:4), and the sin of the spies (Bamidbar 14:1-4).
A: The Brisker Rav notes that the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 23:3) teaches that because Moshe sinned using the word “az” when he questioned Hashem’s conduct and complained (5:23) “me’az basi el Paroh l’daber bishmecha hei’ra la’am ha’zeh — from the time that I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name he did evil to this nation,” he rectified his sin by singing a song of praise beginning with the word “az” — “az yashir Moshe u’Vnei Yisrael,” which indicates that this verse is considered the beginning of Shiras HaYam.
Additionally, the Rambam (Hilchos Sefer Torah 8:4) writes that Shiras HaYam must be written in the Torah in a unique manner that spans 30 lines. As the first of these 30 lines is “Az yashir Moshe u’Vnei Yisrael es ha’shirah ha’zos,” this again proves that this verse is considered part of Shiras HaYam. The Chavatzeles HaSharon adds that this opinion is also supported by the Tosefta (Sotah 6:3). As far as why this is in fact the case, he cites the Chasdei Dovid who explains that just as three men who recite Birkas Hamazon together must begin with one of them verbally inviting the others to join him in blessing Hashem, so too Moshe said this verse as a call to the other Jews to join him in singing a song of praise to Hashem.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.