"Pharaoh will say concerning Bnei Yisroel....." (14:3)
After having traveled three days away from Mitzrayim, Hashem instructed
Moshe to lead Bnei Yisroel back towards Mitzrayim, thus creating the
illusion that they had lost their way. The purpose for this ruse was to
entice Pharaoh to chase after Bnei Yisroel. The verse states that upon
hearing of Bnei Yisroel's movements, Pharaoh will say "they have become
trapped in the land". Rashi points out that the literal translation of
the verse is difficult to maintain for it states that Pharaoh will say
"l'Bnei Yisroel" - "to Bnei Yisroel", "they have become trapped in the
land". How could Pharaoh have been speaking to Bnei Yisroel if they were
three days away? Therefore, Rashi concludes that " l'Bnei Yisroel" should be
translated as "concerning Bnei Yisroel". This too, is the interpretation
offered by the Targum Unkelus who translates the verse "Veyaimar Paroh al
Bnei Yisroel" - "Pharaoh will state about Bnei Yisroel". The Targum
Yonason clearly addressing the same issue states that Pharaoh was speaking
to Dosson and Aviram who remained behind in Mitzrayim.
In Parshas Bo, Rashi citing a Midrash states that during the first three
days of the plague of Darkness, all Jews who refused to leave Mitzrayim were
eliminated. This was done in a clandestine fashion so that the Mitzrim would
not be able to witness their deaths. If Dosson and Aviram remained in
Mitzrayim, why were they not killed as well? If they refused to leave with
Bnei Yisroel, why does the verse refer to them as such?
Initially, Moshe had requested that Bnei Yisroel be permitted to leave
Mitzrayim for three days to serve Hashem. Rashi comments that Pharaoh
sent spies to accompany Bnei Yisroel. When three days had past, they
notified Pharaoh that Bnei Yisroel were not returning. Evidently, Pharaoh
was expecting them to return. Dosson and Aviram refused to go for they
too were under the assumption that Bnei Yisroel were only leaving for a
short spiritual interlude. Although they had no interest in partaking in the
nation's spiritual revival, they had not assimilated to the point that they
defined themselves as Mitzrim. Therefore, when it became evident that Bnei
Yisroel were not returning, they joined their brethren in the desert, as we
find them taking part in Korach's rebellion. Only the Jews who refused to
leave Mitzrayim because they already completely identified themselves as
Mitzrim were killed in the plague of Darkness.
"...they went for a three-day period in the Wilderness, but they did not
After emerging from the Red Sea, Bnei Yisroel traveled for three days
without water to drink. Moshe led them to Marah where they discovered water
but realized that it was bitter and therefore, undrinkable. Moshe then cried
out to Hashem who instructed him to take a tree and cast it into the water.
Moshe did as he was instructed and the waters were miraculously sweetened.
The Talmud understands the lack of water to be an allusion to the lack of
Torah, for Torah is compared to water. Therefore Moshe established that the
Torah be read Mondays and Thursdays to ensure that three days would not pass
without Torah study. The Baalei Hatosfos ask why he specifically chose
Mondays and Thursdays. Other combinations of days could accomplish the same
The Midrash relates that the Shabbos complained to Hashem, "Each day of the
week has a mate, except for me." Hashem placated the Shabbos with the
following response: "Bnei Yisroel will be your mate." What is the notion
of a day having a mate? What are the mates of the other days of the week?
The Rambam teaches that everything in creation was formed from four basic
elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Analysis of Creation reveals one
of the four elements to be predominant on each day. On Sunday, Hashem
created light, which is essentially the element of fire. Monday brought the
creation of the sky, which the Torah describes as a separation of waters.
Clearly, water is the dominant element. On Tuesday, dry land with its
vegetation was created; this is the element of earth. The cycle is then
repeated; on Wednesday, Hashem made two large lights to rule by day and by
night, again the element of fire. On Thursday, all swimming and flying
creatures were created, which were, according to the Talmud, generated from
the very water itself. Friday issued in the creation of animals, followed
by man, both of whom emerged from the earth. Hence, man was called Adam,
from the word "adamah", which means "earth".
The Midrash is teaching that, just as everything in this world is produced
by a male-female union, the elements themselves which Hashem used for
Creation have male and female properties as well; these properties combine
to produce the creations in which they play a predominant role. Sunday -
Wednesday was the union which produced creations that are anchored by the
element of fire. Similarly, Monday - Thursday produced creations which
consist primarily of water. Tuesday and Friday introduced the earth-based
creations. Since the basis for Moshe's enactment was the interpretation of
water as a reference to Torah, the two days selected were the ones on which
the element of water was dominant.
The only element not accounted for is "ru'ach" - "air". This element is the
most spiritual of the four, which is apparent from the verses themselves: At
the onset of Creation, Hashem's presence was described as "ru'ach
Elokim". In His creative mode Hashem is described as "ru'ach". It is
therefore most appropriate that "ru'ach" is dominant on Shabbos, for it is
the union between Bnei Yisroel and Shabbos which generates the sanctity that
permeates the remaining days of the week and gives them their existence.
On Wednesday morning we recite the verse "lechu neranena" at the end of the
Psalm of the day. It is not coincidental that this verse also introduces our
Friday night liturgy, for Shabbos generates the energy for the rest of the
days of the week. The first three days derive their energy from the Shabbos
which has passed and the next three days from the upcoming Shabbos. We
therefore recite the verses of the Shabbos liturgy at the end of Wednesday's
Psalm of the week for we are entering the portion of the week which is
influenced by the next Shabbos.