Friday, February 10, 2006

Parshat Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

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This week's section contains the song that the Jews sang after crossing the

And the song is preceded by the sentence;

"Then will sing Moses and the Jewish people this song to G-d" (15:1)

At first glance this is not understood.

First of all, why didn't the Jews sing as soon as Moses split the sea before
they crossed, or as they were crossing? Why did they wait till afterwards?

Also it would have been sufficient to write, "Then the Jewish people sang".
So we have the following questions on the passage:

Why does it say 'WILL' sing?
Why does it say 'Moses AND the Jewish people? If it would have just said
'the Jewish people', Moses would have been included.
Why does it say "this song" when the song is written clearly afterwards?
And why does it say "to G-d" when the first words of the song are "I will
sing to G-d"!

To answer this here is a story. (Migdal Oz pg 161 & Likuti Sipurim, Perlov
pg 54)

Rabbi Shlomo of Carlin was known throughout all of the Chassidic world as
being one of the foremost pupils of the Maggid of Mezeritz, the successor of
the Baal Shem Tov. In fact he was nicknamed The Rabbi Shlomo the Great
because of his holiness, expertise in all branches of the Torah and great
miracles that he performed.

He had pupils and followers scattered all over the Ukraine and White Russia
and would travel around to visit them regularly.

It so happened that one year he visited pupils that lived in a predominantly
anti-Chassidic (mitnagdim) town in White Russia but he paid no attention to
the opposition. He was too devoted to serving the Creator with every fiber
of his being every moment of the day .

There were many things that the Chassidim did that infuriated their
opposition and two of them were that the men would go to the mikva
(sometimes every morning) and they would heat up the mikva before immersion;
things the mitnagdim thought were insane and even forbidden.

[A mikva is like a small 'swimming' pool built exactly according to Torah
standards, big enough to immerse at least one's body. Immersion in a mikva
removes certain types of impurity. The water is either all rain water, or a
certain percentage rain water]

But, as we said, this opposition did not bother Rabbi Shomo at all. In fact
he requested from some of the young men to heat up the town mikva so he
could immerse himself before prayer and the water was very cold.

The men somehow found a way to get into the mikva building when no one was
there and even managed to heat up a huge pot of water to boiling. The mikva
itself happened to be empty (or they emptied it) and their plan was to pour
the boiling water into the empty mikva and then to quickly fill it with
regular water so it would be warm for Rabbi Shlomo.

But somehow things got a bit disorganized and when they finally managed to
lift the heavy boiling pot to the edge of the wall surrounding the mikva and
pour it into the mikva, they didn't notice that one of their company was
down there in the empty mikva checking on something or other completely
unaware of what was going on above him.

The results were a catastrophe. The Chassid never knew what hit him. In
just seconds he was completely and instantly scalded from head to foot. He
let out blood-curdling screams for about thirty seconds and then passed out
from the pain.

The Chassidim were shocked to the essence of their souls. Their poor friend
was dying a horrible painful death before their very eyes. Their only chance
was to take him to the Rebbe as quickly as possible. They wrapped him in
their coats and ran with him through the cold winter streets until they saw
in the distance the house where the Rebbe was staying.

As they were running they also began to remember that they themselves were
also in severe trouble. If it were known that they were Chassidim of Reb
Shlomo and that their connection to him was any more than casual it could be
physically dangerous for them and their entire families. There were
instances of Chassidim being beaten and even killed by zealous mitnagdim.

They made it to the Rebbe's house They brought their burnt friend in and
laid him on the table. By this time he was much more dead than alive and,
to make things worse when they removed the coats they had wrapped him in
much of the poor fellow's skin peeled off. It was obvious that the end was
only seconds away.

Rabbi Shlomo, however, did not seem overly concerned. He simply began
slowly passing his hand over the fellow's body and wherever his hand passed
the skin miraculously healed!! The burnt Chassid began to breathe more
steadily and easily until after about fifteen minutes of this his skin was
whole and rosy as though nothing ever happened.

The others could not believe what they were seeing; their friend put on his
clothes, thanked the Rebbe profusely for saving his life and left.

It was an open miracle and they all saw it with their naked eyes.

One year later Reb Shlomo again returned to the same town and again the same
young men came to meet him, led by the Chassid that he had brought back to
life. But the Rebbe could tell that something had changed, their entire
attitude was different. He asked what it was and they told him.

"A few months after you did that amazing miracle and actually raised the
dead, well, another Rebbe came here. His name was Rabbi Shneur Zalman of
Laidi. We know he is your friend and you respect him as well, and his
respect and reverence for you is immeasurable.

"But he said two or three discourses in Chassidut and we heard things that
we never thought a human being could say. He spoke about the upper worlds
and we felt we were in the upper worlds. He spoke about how the upper worlds
were really nothing compared to the Creator and we felt that too. But when
he talked about Moshiach and we felt Moshiach was here we decided to follow

Rebbe, you showed us the miracles G-d does; you can even enliven the dead!
But Rebbe Shneur Zalman shows us what WE should do for G-d; he enlivened our

This answers our questions. The Jews didn't sing when the sea split because
they were used to G-d doing miracles for them. What they needed was someone
to teach them to return the favors. ... Like the difference between the two
Rabbis in our story.

That is why it says "Moses AND the Jewish people" because without Moses the
Jews would not have known how to sing to G-d. Moses enlivened their souls.

That is also why it says "This song to G-d" because it was the first time
that the Jews repaid G-d; returned energy and gave something TO Him.

And this explains why it says "Will Sing" as Rashi explains there that this
proves that there will be the raising of the dead; Moses and all the Jews
will again sing.

And the reason why we will SING is because the resurrection of the bodies
will come as a result of the physical service we did with our BODIES in this

And that is the essence of the idea of a SONG - namely raising physical
energy back up to the Creator. It is precisely this return of energy we
'raise up' to G-d that will cause the Raising of the Dead.

That is why the Chassidim in our story favored Rabbi Shneur Zalman's
discourse over Rabbi Shlomo's miracles.

They sensed that it was a preparation for Moshiach.

Moshiach is the goal of Judaism. He will bring all the Jews, indeed all
mankind, to serve Hashem (see the end of Rambam 11:4). And Rabbi Shneur
Zalman was the Moshiach of his generation! (in fact the Lubavitcher Rebbe
pointed out that each of the Chabad Rebbes was the Moshiach of his

And just as G-d did great miracles in the Exodus from Egypt so will He do
even bigger ones in the future redemption. (Micah 7:15) as a result of us
doing all we can NOW in this physical world to bring....

Moshiach NOW!

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
Kfar Chabad, Israel
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