"Hashem said to Moshe, 'Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to
Bnei Yisrael and let them journey forth!'" (14:15)
R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin z"l (see page 4) writes: "Blessed is He
who distinguished us from those who stray. To the Jew who
observes the Torah, war is despised and hated; the possibility
that he might kill worries him more than the possibility that he
might be killed" [see Rashi to Bereishit 32:8].
However, R' Henkin continues: The erev rav, the non-Jewish
hangers-on who left Egypt together with Bnei Yisrael, wanted war
with Pharaoh. This is what is meant by the verse, "And Bnei
Yisrael were going out with an upraised arm." They were only
waiting for the signal from Moshe.
When the signal from Moshe did not come and Pharaoh approached,
the would-be warriors suddenly felt fear. This is why they cried
out to Hashem. He answered, "Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to
Bnei Yisrael and let them journey forth!" It is better to be the
pursued than the pursuer.
R' Henkin adds that this may have been Moshe's mistake when he
at first refused to go to Pharaoh. Moshe said (Shemot 3:11):
"Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take Bnei
Yisrael out of Egypt?" I am not a man of war!
Hashem answered him (3:12), "For I shall be with you." These
words, and the verses that follow it, conveyed to Moshe that the
exile in Egypt would not be the final exile [see Rashi to verse
3:14]. In this way, Hashem taught Moshe that He was not looking
for a warrior to lead Bnei Yisrael; rather it was (and is) Bnei
Yisrael's role to be pursued throughout history until the time of
the final redemption.
(From an undated open letter,
reprinted in Kitvei Hagaon R' Y.E. Henkin Vol. I, p.196)
"Hashem will reign for all eternity!" (15:16)
The midrash teaches: if only the Jewish people had said (in the
present tense), "Hashem reigns for all eternity," no nation would
ever be able to oppress or subjugate them.
R' Gedalyah Schorr z"l (1911-1979; sometimes called, "the first
American gadol") explains: the midrash does not mean that a
simple change in words would have sufficed to bring about the
final redemption. Our long history of exiles was not caused
simply by the fact that Bnei Yisrael said, "will reign," instead
Rather, Bnei Yisrael's words were a reflection of what they
were experiencing at that moment. They did not rise to the level
where they saw Hashem as King in the present. Instead, they only
attained a lower level where they recognized that Hashem will be
King in the future.
How do we know that Bnei Yisrael were describing what they were
experiencing? Chazal say: "No two prophets prophesy in exactly
the same words." Yet here, millions of people prophesied in
exactly the same words; they all said "Az yashir"/"The Song of
the Sea" together! How is that possible?
The reason that no two prophets prophesied in exactly the same
way is that all prophets (except Moshe) did not see their visions
perfectly clearly. To some extent, they had to interpret what
they saw. Thus, here, where millions of people prophesied in
exactly the same words, we can be certain that they were
describing what they actually "saw." And, because they saw
Hashem as the King of the future, but not of the present, they
demonstrated that they were not yet ready for the final
"For the hand is on the throne of Hashem: Hashem maintains a
war against Amalek from generation to generation." (17:16)
Rashi writes: Hashem has sworn by His throne that His Name will
not be compete until Amalek is destroyed.
Based on this comment by Rashi, R' Pinchas David Horowitz z"l
(the first "Bostoner Rebbe"; died 1941) offers an explanation of
the following verse(Tehilim 75:11): "I will cut down all the
pride [literally: 'the horns'] of the reshaim/wicked ones; the
pride of the tzaddik/righteous one will be exalted."
Why is the word reshaim/wicked ones plural while
tzaddik/righteous one is singular? The "horns" of the word
"reshaim," i.e., the letters at its ends are resh and mem. The
gematria of these two letters is 240, equal to the gematria of
"Amalek." The "horns" of the word "tzaddik" are the letters
tzaddi and kuf, whose gematria (190) is equal to the gematria of
the word "kaitz"/"End (of Days)."
The verse is teaching: After the pride of Amalek is cut down,
the pride of the tzaddik, i.e., the End of Days, will come.
(Quoted in Shoshelet Boston p. 271)
Rabbis of the New World
R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin z"l was born in the Mohilev province of
Russia on Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon 5641/1881. He was known as a
child prodigy. At age 15 he already was studying in the Mir
Yeshiva. Soon after, he became the youngest student in the
yeshiva of Slutsk headed by R' Isser Zalman Meltzer.
R' Henkin's early years as a rabbi were spent wandering from
one city to another, sometimes because of his inability to obtain
a residence permit, and at other times because the unlearned
towns that hired him had no use for a scholar of his stature.
During these years he corresponded with leading sages regarding
halachically questionable customs that he saw practiced.
In 1923, R' Henkin was on the verge of being deported to a
Soviet labor camp when he escaped to the United States. After
being detained on Ellis Island for five weeks, he obtained a
rabbinic position on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Shortly
thereafter, R' Henkin published his important work on the laws of
marriage and divorce entitled Perushei Ivra.
The best known chapter in R' Henkin's career opened in 1925,
with his appointment as Executive Director of the charitable
organization Ezras Torah. He would remain in this position for
48 years, and he was completely devoted to it. Six days a week,
R' Henkin was at his desk in the Ezras Torah office, and on
Shabbat he went from shul to shul conducting appeals. Even the
halachic responsa that he wrote would end with an appeal for
Although many people have never heard of R' Henkin, his
influence is widespread through the Ezras Torah luach/calendar
which is widely used as a source for synagogue customs (for
example, whether or not tachanun should be recited) and the
timing of the molad/new moon. The halachic rulings in that
calendar are R' Henkin's, based on his work, Edut Le'Yisrael. At
one time, R' Henkin was considered to be the ultimate halachic
authority in the United States, and it is reported that some
yeshivot would give his telephone number to all newly ordained
students together with their diplomas.
R' Henkin died on 13 Av 5733/1973. (Sources: Kitvei Hagaon R'
Y.E. Henkin: Foreword)
Micheline and David Peller
in memory of David's parents
Irving and Arline Katz
on the yahrzeits of grandmother
Henia Rachel bat Pinchas Spalter a"h
and mother Fradel bat Yaakov Shulim Reiss a"h
and father Chaim Eliezer ben Avigdor Moshe Hakohen Katz z"l
The Marwick family in memory of Reba Sklaroff