Our parashah opens, "It happened when Pharaoh sent out the
[Jewish] people . . . ," and the midrash comments that "sending
out" always means, "with accompaniment." (See, for example,
Bereishit 18:16.) Says the midrash: "The same lips that uttered
(Shmot 5:2), `I will not send out Yisrael,' later said (Shmot
10:10), `I will send you forth with your children.' What was
Pharaoh's reward for these words? Hashem commanded us (Devarim
23:8), `You shall not reject an Egyptian . . . Children who are
born to them, in the third generation they may enter the
congregation of Hashem'."
The midrash continues: "The same lips that uttered (Shmot 5:2),
`I do not know Hashem,' later said (in our parashah, 14:25), "I
shall flee before Yisrael, for Hashem is waging war for them
against Egypt.' What was Pharaoh's reward for this? We read
(Yishayah 19:19), `On that day there will be an altar [dedicated]
to Hashem in the midst of the land of Egypt'."
R' Eliyahu Lopian z"l (1872-1970; mashgiach of Yeshivat Knesset
Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chassidim) observes that this midrash is
incredible. Pharaoh was an evil man who oppressed an entire
nation, murdered babies, ridiculed Moshe and Aharon, and ignored
G-d's obvious rebuke. Is it any wonder that he sent Bnei Yisrael
away with accompaniment? [He probably wanted to make sure they
really left!] Why did G-d reward him for this act?
Moreover, the midrash implies that if not for Pharaoh's saying,
"I will send you forth," Egyptians would be prohibited to marry
into the Jewish nation just like Moabites. What about Pharaoh's
words made him worthy of having his descendants welcomed into
Our Sages teach that no good deed goes unrewarded. Hashem does
not deprive any person of his just reward, even when his good
deed is incidental to a long series of bad deeds. Pharaoh was
humiliated by the plagues and he had to free Bnei Yisrael, but he
did not have to admit that "Hashem is waging war." He could have
kept quiet. He did not have to humiliate himself further by
sending Egyptians to accompany Bnei Yisrael on their way. He
could have dispatched a messenger to Moshe to tell him to leave
with Bnei Yisrael as quickly as possible. For having the courage
and the moral strength to admit he was wrong, Pharaoh deserved a
significant reward. (Lev Eliyahu)
"Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him, for [Yosef] had
firmly adjured the Children of Israel, saying, `G-d will
surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from
here with you'." (13:19)
R' Chaim Vital z"l (Tzefat and Damascus; 1543-1620) asks: What
is added by the words "with you"? He answers: We read in Tehilim
(114:3; recited in Hallel), "The Sea saw and fled." The midrash
asks: "What did the Sea see that made it flee, i.e., split? It
saw the coffin of Yosef." Thus, the words "with you" are
crucial. Yosef was telling his brothers: "Only if I am with you
will you succeed in leaving Egypt."
(Etz Hadaat Tov: Parashat Vayechi)
What does it mean that the Sea split because it saw the coffin
of Yosef? R' Naftali of Ropschitz z"l (died 1827) explains:
Yosef's greatness was his refusal to succumb to immorality. When
the Sea "saw" how the population of Bnei Yisrael had exploded in
Egypt, it "realized" that they, like Yosef, had maintained the
purity of their families. In this merit, the Sea split.
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Ezrat Avoteinu)
"This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him." (15:2)
The gemara (Sotah 30b) teaches: "When Bnei Yisrael stepped out
of the Sea, they wanted to recite a song of praise to G-d. How
did they sing? Every child sitting on his mother's lap and every
nursing infant looked up and said, `This is my G-d, and I will
R' Yoel Halevi Herzog z"l (1865-1933; Chief Rabbi of Paris)
explains this gemara based on the following midrash on our
parashah: We read in Tehilim (106:11-12), "And the waters covered
their tormentors, not one of them was left. Then they believed
His words, they sang His praise." [This implies that prior to the
splitting of the Sea, Bnei Yisrael did not believe.] The midrash
says: Although the Torah states that Bnei Yisrael believed Moshe
when he first appeared before them in Egypt - as it is written
(Shmot 4:31), "And the people believed" - they later did not
believe him. Thus it is written (Tehilim 106:7), "Our fathers in
Egypt did not contemplate Your wonders." [Now they believed
Says R' Herzog: Although Bnei Yisrael believed Moshe when they
saw that he performed wonders in G-d's Name, as related in the
verse from Shmot quoted above, many of them still were not sure
that G-d exercises complete control over the world. They
believed, yet they did not believe. As the verse in Tehilim
relates, they did not contemplate His wonders. They did not
realize that He alone controls everything; instead, they thought
that there exist other powers besides Him. However, the midrash
teaches, after the splitting of the Yam Suf, all of Bnei Yisrael
realized that G-d alone is the only true power.
This is alluded to in our gemara. Nursing infants and very
young toddlers do not know any source of sustenance other than
their mothers. They do not realize that their mothers themselves
must obtain sustenance from another source. Only when they
mature do they realize that their mothers are not the ultimate
power. This is what happened at the Yam Suf. Previously, Bnei
Yisrael had recognized Moshe's power and they had recognized the
power of other forces, for example, nature. Now, however, they
realized that none of these is the ultimate power; rather, Hashem
is. Like a baby who stops nursing and realizes that his mother
too needs support and sustenance, Bnei Yisrael recognized G-d as
the Power above all powers.
"They gathered it morning by morning, every man according to
what he eats, and when the sun grew hot [the remaining mahn]
R' Yerucham Levovitz z"l (the "Mirrer mashgiach"; died 1936)
writes: Let us get an idea of the love which Hashem shows man
with regard to his food-gathering. Was there any greater kindness
than what Hashem did for Bnei Yisrael by giving them mahn in the
desert? Our Sages say that enough mahn fell every day to feed
Bnei Yisrael for 2,000 years. Why? After all, no matter how much
a person collected, a miracle occurred so that he always found
himself with exactly the amount that he needed to feed his family
for one day. What was the purpose of so much mahn falling?
R' Levovitz answers: The Sages explain that the purpose of the
extra mahn was to keep warm the mahn that would be eaten. It was
"worthwhile" (so-to-speak) for Hashem to waste 2,000 years worth
of food just so that Bnei Yisrael's food would stay warm.
Why did the mahn fall every day? Since it was miraculous in any
case, why didn't a forty-year supply fall? The midrash explains
that it was a favor on Hashem's part. Imagine a parent who has a
child away at school. If the parent does not enjoy receiving
letters from his child, he will send the child his allowance for
the whole year in one lump sum. However, a parent who values any
communication that he receives from his child will send smaller
amounts so that the child will have to write and call more often.
[Ed. note: The preceding parable is an updated version of the
parable which the midrash offers.] Similarly, Hashem values our
prayers, and He therefore makes our sustenance harder to come by.
He could give us our yearly sustenance on Rosh Hashanah, but this
would have the effect of cutting us off from Him.
This is itself a kindness to us. Why is prayer important?
Because it is through prayer that we experience closeness to G-d.
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Rashei Yeshivat Mir p. 229)
"Each man, for those in his tent he shall collect [mahn]."
A couple once came to R' Asher'l Horowitz of Rimanov z"l (died
1935) with a problem. The woman complained that her husband
could not earn a living because he was "too" honest. Did he have
that right, his wife wanted to know, when his family was
R' Asher'l answered: A person's obligation to support his
family is learned from the above verse regarding the mahn. This
verse was said at a time when Hashem openly sent food to each
family according to its needs. No one took another's share, and
no one cheated. [And if someone did cheat, he gained nothing from
it, as the Torah testifies.] Similarly, now, even though
Hashem's ways are less obvious, each person can, and must,
support his family honestly, without any question of wrongdoing.
(Quoted in Iturei Torah)
R' Yisrael Elazar Hofstein z"l
R' Hofstein was born in Kozhnitz in 1898, where his father,
R' Yerachmiel Moshe, was a chassidic rebbe. The elder R'
Hofstein was a great-grandson of R' Yisrael, known as the
"Kozhnitzer Maggid" (1740-1814), one of the founders of chassidut
The younger R' Hofstein studied in the yeshiva of R' Meir
Yechiel Halevi Halstock in Ostrovtza, and was ordained by him.
In 1925, R' Hofstein led a group of chassidim that made aliyah,
and together with another group of chassidim (followers of R'
Taub of Kozmark, Czechoslovakia), these immigrants established a
new community called Kfar Chassidim. The village was located in
a swampy area along the Kishon River, and the immigrants suffered
a great deal until they succeeded in draining the swamps. They
also experienced tremendous hunger and deprivation.
R' Hofstein himself took ill and was forced to leave Eretz
Yisrael. He moved to Paris, where he was named Chief Rabbi of
the chareidi community, succeeding R' Yoel Halevi Herzog. When
the Germans invaded Paris, R' Hofstein was arrested, but he
escaped. In 1941, he reached the United States.
In the U.S., R' Hofstein worked to reestablish Kozhnitzer
chassidut, but he viewed himself has a visitor and dreamed of
returning to Eretz Yisrael. In 1966, he established a Kozhnitzer
bet midrash in Tel Aviv; however, upon returning to the U.S. to
wind up his affairs, he died suddenly on 2 Elul 5726 / 1966. He
was buried in Yerushalayim.
While still a young man in Europe, R' Hofstein published a
pamphlet about the importance of settling in Eretz Yisrael.
Besides his love for the Land, he also was known for his love of
the Jewish people and for the vast amounts of charity he
R' Hofstein's Torah commentaries were published by his
chassidim under the title Avodat Elazar (presumably a take-off,
in part, on the title of the Kozhnitzer Maggid's celebrated work,
Avodat Yisrael). R' Hofstein was succeeded as rebbe by his
daughter's son, R' Shimshon Moshe Sternberg.
Sponsored by Irving and Arline Katz
in memory of grandmother, Henia Rachel bat Pinchas Spalter a"h
and mother Fradel bat Yaakov Shalom Reiss a"h
Micheline and David Peller in memory of David's parents a"h