The parsha discusses the Splitting of the Sea, the song they sang at that
time, and the falling of the mon (manna).
"Pharaoh approached. The Children of Yisrael raised their eyes, and
behold -- the Egyptians were coming from behind them! The Children of
Yisrael became very worried, and they cried out to Hashem." (Shmos 14:10-12)
"Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem..." (Shmos 14:10) Rashi explains: 'They
latched on to the expertise of their fathers,' (i.e., prayer). Still, when
Moshe davens, Hashem responds, "I have accepted your prayer." See Rashi
there: "Now is not the time to daven, tell them to go!"
What is the need for davening, since Hashem had assured them that He would
fight on their behalf? They were never in danger; it was merely part of
Hashem's plan to embolden the Egyptians to chase after Yisrael in order that
the Egyptians be punished by the Sea. So the Torah clearly states (Shmos
14:2-4). Since everything had been determined in advance by Hashem, what
was the need for prayer?
We have discussed how prayer is not merely for our self-serving interests,
but is an essential part of our services to Hashem. Nonetheless, the
Maharal states (Bereshis 30) that there cannot be any benefit without
request through prayer. How can we understand -- what is the effect of
Tefilah -- The Necessity for Prayer
The words of Rav Michel Feinstein ("Chidushei Rebbenu Hagrim"):
When a person is in pain, he must daven until he has been answered. Prayer,
besides having the ability to reverse the attribute of justice to that of
mercy (Talmud, Sukkah 14a), is required in order to bring the Will of Hashem
from the potential to the actual. Even that which is vitally necessary and
must occur, will not come to fruition without tefilah -- prayer.
We find in the Torah's account of Creation, that rain did not fall until man
prayed (Rashi, Bereishis 2:5). Similarly, Avraham had been promised that
his heritage would be passed on through Yitzchak (Ibid., 21:12) -- yet we
find that Yitzchak had to pray for his wife to give birth (Ibid., 25:21).
Indeed, we find (Rashi, Shmos 14:15) 'the merit and the faith of the
forefathers is sufficient that the sea will be split,' but at the same time,
Rashi writes (Ibid., verse 19) that Yisrael was being judged at that time,
whether they would be saved or perish along with the Egyptians! The Rabbis
relate (Yalkut 234) "The Accuser said: 'Master of the World, didn't Yisrael
serve idols in Egypt? Yet, You perform miracles for them?' " The Talmud
adds (Sanhedrin 98b), "The Holy One said, 'Both nations are the work of My
hands, how can I destroy these before those?' "
How can we explain these inconsistencies? It seems that the judgments of
Hashem are true, from the beginning to the end. Still, there is room for
the attribute of justice to complain and criticize even after Hashem's
promise has been given. This is why the Rabbis say (Brochos 4a) that even
after Hashem had told Yaakov "I will be with you," nonetheless, Yaakov was
afraid that sins would intervene and prevent the blessings from being
Actually, the assurances cannot be nullified; "Any good word that emanates
from Hashem -- even on condition -- will not be taken back." (Ibid.)
However, the accusations -- bearing some truth -- can delay fulfillment of
the promises. For this we need prayer, to bring out clemency in judgment:
Hashem Himself testified that Yisrael only served idolatry because of the
extenuating circumstances of the servitude and resulting confusion. Once
they have been sufficiently defended, the promise will be fully actualized.
"Then Moshe and the Children of Yisrael sang this song..." Rashi struggles
with the grammar of this verse. Literally, the verse says Moshe will sing,
in the future tense. Rashi explains, "When he saw the miracle, the thought
arose in his heart that he would sing the song." In Minchas Asher, Rav
Asher Weiss points out that this seems very forced. What is the meaning of
such a statement? Rav Weiss refers us to the words of the Maharal: The
essence of the song is the feeling of happiness in the heart. The song
began with a true feeling, a desire to break out in song because of the
wondrous miracle which had occurred. It is not enough to have the feeling,
however. The feeling must culminate with the actual song. The Tzadikim
sing with all their heart and soul, and in this way their happiness becomes
The Ramban connects the song at the sea with the story of the mon (manna).
The mon was a spiritual sustenance. Only someone accustomed to high
spiritual levels would be able to eat it and be sustained. "At the point
where they were able to recognize the miracle and sing -- their souls became
elevated -- now they would be able to subsist on the mon."
On the night of the Seder we sing and rejoice with the simcha of Torah and
service, and reprove the wicked son. Without singing, without recognizing
and rejoicing over the miracles -- it would be impossible for him to survive
on the Mon alone.
"If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!" (Hagada)
In reality, there were many hardships on the way out of Egypt. They
complained -- even the wondrous mon left them hungry. The Ohr Hechayim
points out that, having experienced hardships, we become greater. In spite
of difficulties, if we remember to seek Hashem's help, and to recognize and
rejoice over the realization of miracles -- we can survive, even thrive --
during physically challenging times.
"The song (of the future redemption) will be like the night of the
sanctification of the festival." (Yeshaya 30) On the nights of Pesach, they
sang on the rooftops in Yerushalayim until it seemed that the roofs would
break. (Talmud, Pesachim) Such was the power of their rejoicing!
Concepts and Mussar from Kelm -- translated from the original "Chochma
Rav Simcha Zissel Ziev
Tenth Letter, Part Two -- Student's Summary (Continued)
16. A person who works with the public will be tested in the following way.
It is obligatory to bear the yoke of the congregation's burdens and to
desire their success. This may necessitate being silent, even when painful,
and may perhaps lessen one's own honor. However, being able to withstand
such a situation is a test, and will highlight one's ability to perceive the
17. An intelligent person seeks the advice of someone greater. As one seeks
to deal with each matter wisely, he bends himself to a wise leader and
accepts his teaching. Unbridled will, however, follows the heart and spurns
advice. Seeking advice cuts deep to the straight point...and demands that
everything be done in like manner.
Listening to advice is a sign that a person is an intellectual, and he will
surely become wise, (1) when he recognizes the ways of the wise one. One
who doesn't seek, and and doesn't listen to advice -- this is a sign that he
is one who follows his unbridled will. Someone with 'will' doesn't seek
advice -- no need to say from another person -- indeed, such a person won't
follow his own advice! "Because he wants." What good are suggestions which
illustrate obligations and straight points, in opposition to one's will?
Consequently, if someone doesn't commit himself to follow advice -- this is
a sign, that he is a man of 'will' -- and is the opposite of the
intellectual. He acts out of love for himself, and travels in the gate of
destruction (perish the thought!). This idea, frightening as it is, is a
novel one -- the reverse of what people think.
This explains the words of the Mishnah (Pirke Avos, 2:1), "Which is the
straight way which a person should choose? That which is honorable in
itself, and honorable in the eyes of man." Rebbenu Yona explains: Imagine
asking advice. What advice would they give you? Act accordingly.
[According to Sha'are Teshuva 1:31, the verse "The purified one will act in
a straight manner" (Mishle 21:8) means: When a person breaks his desires,
his intellect will gain the upper hand, and he will be successful.]
However, one who doesn't pursue the straight way -- his entire goal being
the pursuit of self-will and desire -- "because he wants" -- will not seek
advice. How deep and precious are these words.
1. Mishle 12:15. "The way of the fool is straight in his eyes, but one who
listens to advice is wise."
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Bais Medrash Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Kiryas Radin
Ramapo, New York 10977
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Torah.org.