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BEAUTIFUL Torah From Tzvi Moshe

In this week’s Parsha, the redemption of the Jewish people comes into full focus with the splitting of the sea and the Shirah. Through analyzing the transition from Galus to Geula, the switch from exile to redemption, we will hopefully see how to bring this down to the personal level, and make that same transition in my day-to-day.

The Sfas Emes explains that certain Parshios are uniquely directed at bringing out Galus themes, and there are Parshios that are specifically designed to bring out Geula. Parshas Vayechi is the first, and our Parsha, Beshalach, is the latter. Let’s go deeper into his words.

In order to illustrate the transition we need to start at the beginning of the exile, which occurs in Parshas Vayechi. Parshas Vayechi marks the beginning of the Galus for a number of reasons that we will try to spell out. On the most basic level, it is the point that all of Bnei Yisrael descend into Egypt, and from there they become enslaved.

There is something very interesting about Vayechi in that it is a Parsha Stumah. Parsha Stumah literally means a Parsha that is sealed. A Parsha Stumah is a Parsha where the breaks that are normally present to separate between Parshios are not there in their normal form, and one Parsha flows into another almost as one Passuk would be placed right next to another, forming a lock-down on either side of the Parsha. What are the breaks normally for for? The Midrash tells us that they are Revach L’Hisbonen time to think, digest and ponder about the last idea before proceeding on to the next one. This means that Vayechi, the Parsha that marks the beginning of exile is defined by being sealed off from the ability to think clearly. The Midrash tells us that the Parsha is sealed because the eyes and hearts of the Jews became sealed - the ability to flourish was squashed.

So what went into Galus exactly? The Ohr G’Delyahu explains the words of Chazal that tell us that Mitzrayim was a Galus of the Dibur, of speech. What is speech? The Chovos HaLevavos beautifully tells us that ‘The mouth is the quill of the heart.’ Meaning that which I have inside of me, my thoughts and feelings, are expressed when they come outwardly from my mouth. What Mitzrayim did was take away that ability to express.

Perhaps we can explain then, how these ideas are fully solidified in how Vayechi comes to a close. The Parsha ends with “And Yosef was buried in a coffin in Egypt.” This is the ultimate form of being boxed in. The coffin is a sealed box that has contained finality. In is the axiomatic symbol of the end of this ability to flourish, the grave is the mark of the stopping – of closing in, and this is the final image of Vayechi.

So now we understand exactly what Galus is. The ability to express myself, to think for myself, the ability to flourish on my own - when these are taken away, I’m in exile.

This means that everything that illustrates exile must be present in the total opposite in our Parsha where we get Geulah. We’ll start with the issue of Parsha Stumah. We explained that the Parsha Stumah is the lack of space in the Parsha. And we see how the opposite is obviously present in Beshalach where we have the set-up of the Shirah! The song at the sea is written in such a way that extra space is intentionally put in. Either a wide gap in the middle, or space on both side is present in every line! So if the lack of space is a representation of the lack of free thought, then the Shirah is an expression of free thought on the highest level!

Next we need to address the issue of Dibur going into Galus. If Mitzrayim took away speech, which is the ability to bring my inner feelings out, then the obvious flip-side if the Shirah itself! The song that was sung at the Yam Suf was a spontaneous bursting forth of speech and tune and emotional overflowing all woven together! It’s the highest level of expression!

And what is the opposite of the coffin of Yosef? Perhaps we can say that the parallel is found in Kriyas Yam Suf. If the coffin is the symbol of being boxed in, then it would make sense to say that the splitting of the sea is a clear image of opening up!

Now, in contrast to the crushing experience of Galus, we see that Geula is the ability to open up and truly express myself.

There is an interesting interplay where these two opposite Parshios meet. The Passuk in Tehillim (114:3) says that “HaYam Ra’a VaYanas” The sea saw and if ran away. This is a reference to our splitting of the sea in Beshalach. The question is, what did the sea see? It’s brought down in a number of sources that it saw the Coffin that had Yosef, it saw the bones of Yosef, and that caused it to split open.

It’s unbelievable that specifically the image of being contained and stifled is exactly what caused the sea to widely open up! What does this mean? That the processes of Vayechi, the situations that are the most crushing, are absolutely necessary to get the abilities of bursting forth and opening up that we find in Parshas Beshalach.

We can take this in the direction of a tree. To someone unfamiliar with the processes of planting, describing how a tree comes to be would be very confusing. In order for a tree to grow a seed has to be taken, a hole has to be dug and then the seed has to be buried tightly in that hole. After all that, the seed as to wait and rot underground. Only after all of this does the seed have the ability to sprout above the ground, out from its imprisonment in the soil. If the seed were to remain above ground, it would never be given the opportunity to grow!

The Passuk says in Dvarim (20:19) says, “HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh” ‘Man is a tree in the field.’ This is not just a cute metaphor. This is a reality of the human experience. I need to experience what it is like to be bottled up before I can truly appreciate what it means to be free.

All forms of redemption work like this, both personal and national. When we ask for the Geula in Shmona Esrei we ask, “Es Tzemach David Avdecha Meheira Tatzmiach” Please Hashem, make the sprout of David HaMelech grow forth to save us. And like we explained above, we now know what it means to grow.

When I feel like I’m in a coffin-like situation, I need to know that it is exactly that experience that I’m going to use to split a sea. It is those painful situation, where it seems that I can’t even think for myself anymore, when I feel most bottled up, the most squashed – it is specifically those experience that I need to use as the motivation to flourish. Only after a Vayechi can I get to Beshalach.

B’Ezras Hashem we’ll all be Zoche to this. We have within ourselves the ability to see beyond the narrow frame of reference that only lets me see pain. We need to know that in the bigger picture all that exile-like experience is just pushing us to a the point that I’ll be able to express ourselves at the greatest an highest level. If we can do this there is no doubt we live lives of meaning and fulfillment moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Redemption!

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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