Some 3,300 years ago the Yiddin were freed, left Mitzrayim, made their way to the Yam Suf (some say this is the Red Sea, ober literally translated, this is the Sea of Reeds,) and faced their first decision in over 210 years: jump into the water or not. This amazing and emotional story is recounted this coming shabbis when we will read Parshas Bishalach otherwise known as shabbis Shira (shabbis of song). This week over at the Fontainebleau Hotel here in Miami Beach and mistama in other beach resorts all over Florida and other warm climates, a number of otherwise frum women who, in other surroundings (their own neighborhoods) wouldn’t be caught dead without a head covering of some sort, and zicher not in bathing suits and for a select few –very- who have the strength to stay away from challah and kugil, even in bikinis- were forced to make a similar decision: shvitz away under their baseball caps, sun hats and coverings or give in to the yetzer Horo, lose the robe, the cap, the sun dress or some other schmatta covering -some or all- and jump into the pool. Nu, avada you chap that the yetzer horo (evil inclination) is one very persuasive and strong individual, that’s his tafkid (life’s mission) and he gets the job done, almost always. Shoin! And because these women were weak and submitted to theirs, the heylige Oisvorfer, much to his chagrin (and delight), found himself in the pool, along with the bikini clad shiksas which is seemingly mutir lechol hadyois (allowed) and frum married women, some with cover-ups and many without; this grouping strictly verboten. What’s pshat here?
Nu, when it comes to jumping into the water and mixed swimming, avada there are different minhogim (customs) -mostly made up on the spot- being practiced by this special group of noshim tzidkoniyois (righteous woman) whose ancestors, avada also play a central role in this week’s parsha as we will shortly learn. Depending on the sun, the heat and mistama other factors, including the shape of their bodies, they were subject to change on a whim and the Oisvorfer found himself in the pool with a healthy number of married frum women. Some with hats, caps and robes, a few with robes and no hats, others with robes, sans caps and hats, and still others with no robes and no hats. Gishmak! And the bottom line: frum, like clothing, comes in many styles and is seemingly also seasonal.
These various practices left the Oisvorfer good and confused about the halochois (rules) of tzinus (modesty). What’s pshat here? Exactly what part of a married woman’s body is off limits to other men, even for a quick peek? Is it, as we were taught for many years, her sexy hair which could turn otherwise docile young and middle aged men into vilde chayis and behamois? And if the hair is adequately covered, is it ok for the women to be mixed swimming, ver veyst? On the other hand, if the married woman is to be modest and remain unnoticed by other men, wouldn’t it be easier and more practical were she to just blend in to the pool with the other swimmers? Isn’t it emes that the average person in the pool – he or she- goes unnoticed? Ober it’s les-man-di-polig (no one would argue) that a woman with either a hat or a robe will get some immediate attention. Other men will look, if only to find out who this person might be, seemingly defeating the primary reason for such coverings: namely to avoid notice and exposure to other men who could become uncontrollably excited by the sight of a woman’s hair, wet or dry. Veyter.
Let’s learn some Parsha and take a closer look at what went down besides the Mitzrim into the sea. Lommer lernin ober as has become our custom of late, let’s begin with a shtikel review of last week’s parsha wherein the Yiddin, after Paroy and the Mitzrim absorbed the last of the 10 makois, were chased out of Mitzrayim. Avada you recall that after experiencing seven makois in Parshas Vo’eiro, the RBSO saved the best for last and schmeissed Paroy the minuvil and the Mitzrim with three more, including the big one; we’ll pick up the action there. The Mitzrim were struck with Choishech (blackout) and Makas Bechoirois (plague of the firstborn). Though the RBSO hardened Paroy, eventually he went soft and agreed to allow the Yiddin to leave; in fact he chased them out. There was no time for the yeast to rise, hence no time to bake the bread. That’s the bad news: the good news was that the Yiddin did find adequate time to pack gold, silver and other valuables. Oh, and avada just as important, we got the amazing Yom Tov of Pesach and all its trimmings. Avada, given the choice of bread vs. gold and silver, this was a no brainer, which would you pack? Hello, these were the Yiddin and efsher the gold vs. bread option, was one of the tests given by the RBSO to see if they would be worthy of becoming His Chosen People. Is it possible that had the Yiddin chosen to bake bread instead of taking gold and silver, the entire course of history would be different, ver veyst? The Yiddin seemingly chapped that too much bread and other such carbs were not healthy and make people fat and complacent ober did anyone every get fat because he/she had too much gold or even silver? Zicher nisht!
Welcome again to Parshas Bishalach, also avada known as Parshas Shira, one of the most riveting and emotional Parshas in the gantze Toirah. The Yiddin have left town and Paroy’s work force has been severely depleted. Paroy quickly realizes that hard was better than soft, if you chap, and with help from the RBSO he’s hardened one last time (his heart- you chazir). Invigorated and emboldened, he pursued the Yiddin, and you avada know the rest. Well that’s what the rebbe taught us in Yeshiva ober says the Medrish: the root of the word “bishalach,” means more than just “sending away”; it means to accompany. In other words: bad boy Paroy who had just endured the RBSO’s wrath, accompanied the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim, and because he personally accompanied us on our way out, Paroy was rewarded by the RBSO. Efsher you recall the Oisvorfer teaching you just two weeks back that the Yiddin are admonished and reminded not to hate an Egyptian because they were our hosts for 400 years. Is Paroy the poster boy for a person we must not hate? Do we owe him a yashar koiach (thank you) for the 210 years of slavery?
Ober says the Medrish: avada there’s an excellent teretz (answer) and one that should please many in the oisvorf community. Seemingly the same RBSO that punishes when He gets angry does also reward that same person for the performance of good deeds, and seemingly Paroy, by personally escorting the Yiddin out, merited a reward. Seemingly the RBSO does not ignore the slightest good manifested by a person, no matter how big a minuvil or chazir he (or you) might otherwise be. Soon we will see yet another example of the RBSO’s benevolence when the Malach Hamoves (Angel of Death) sough to prevent the sea from splitting: halt zich eyn.
The Yiddin got to the Yam Suf (Reed Sea) where the biggest neys (miracle) of all time unfolded right before their eyes. The sea split, the waters ‘were’ divided and the Yiddin crossed. Depending on which Medrish you embrace, they either walked over or through or around or whatever, while the Mitzrim all drowned. Says the Medrish (Shmois Rabba 11:6) that the usage of the term ‘were divided’ vs. ‘was divided’ when referring to the water seems to imply that more than one body of water was involved and taka that’s what happened. Seemingly the waters in wells and fountains across the world became divided at the very moment of the splitting of the sea so as to showcase the RBSO’s miracle to the gantza velt (entire world). Paroy and his army are destroyed, some say he alone survived. On the other side, the Yiddin sang, the women banged (at the drums) and all were happy; not for too long, as we will efsher read. Yiddin are seemingly never too happy for too long. Veyter. The action will pick up in earnest three days later when the Yiddin, singers and believers just three days earlier, are now no longer steadfast in their belief, at least in Moishe. Seemingly the Yiddin forgot to throw a Kiddush to celebrate the great miracle on the Sea and had now been on the road three days without food: they were hungry and thirsty. Nu, they quickly forgot the RBSO’s great miracles and complained bitterly to Moishe and Aharoin.
In case you’re wondering if all agree as to the events of the sea splitting, the answer is avada no, and like everything else, it’s the subject of a great machloikes (debate) between two tanna’im (Rebes of the Mishnah) regarding the inter-tribal debate that occurred on the banks of the Red Sea. Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 36-37a) azoy: Rebbe Meir stated that the shivotim (tribes) argued with each other for primacy of position. Each tribe boasted that they would be the first to jump into the sea. Rebbe Yehuda says farkert (opposite) and that Rebbe Meir is all wet. “Such was not the mayseh (story).” Rather, each tribe stated that they were not going to jump in first. Ultimately, Nachshoin ben Aminadav (from sheyvet Yehuda) jumped in first. Let’s review: Before the moment for action arrived, each tribe boasted that they would jump into the Yam Suf first, and guaranteed courageous behavior. Ober when the actual moment of truth came, only the tribe of Yehuda stood up to the occasion. Seemingly Yehuda had previously risen to the occasion; if you chap. The others succumbed to the pressures of the reality they faced. It became apparent that they promised far more than they were capable of delivering, only Nachshon delivered. One thing is zicher: both Rebbe Yehuda and Rebbe Meir agree on one thing: there was a disagreement between the shevotim as to what action should or shouldn’t be taken. Givaldig, who would believe otherwise?
Efsher maybe, that’s taka why Yehuda’s tribe, despite the fact that Yehuda himself had epes (somewhat) an illicit relationship with his daughter-in-law Tamar, was fit for kingship (Oisvorfer’s pshat). Seemingly, the RBSO understands questionable relationships and other matters of znus, maybe even mixed swimming: It’s avoido zoro (idol worship) and some loshoin horah (badmouthing) that irks Him more than anything, as we will learn below. Veyter.
Overcome with joy at having survived the ordeal at sea, the Yiddin began to sing shira (praises to the RBSO) but avada only the men. Though they just came out of a mixed general swim through the Yam Suf, and though this took place a few weeks before Matan Toirah and zicher before Rabbis of yore established myriad chumras (prohibitions), when it came to singing, the men were already separated from the woman. Is mixed singing worse than mixed swimming? Ver veyst? Chas v’sholom (heaven forbid) the women should sing with the men as this could cholila efsher/ avada have led to mixed dancing, and worse- what could be worse? Says The Vilna Gaon: that the women could not say Shira (sing with the men) because Kol B’isha Erva (a woman’s voice turns men on) and it was not tzniusdik (modest) for them to sing, especially with the men. Said Miriam: “You (referring to the men) sing Shira while the women will play the Tupim.” Nu, not to feel bad for the women: they were doing the banging (on the drums) and participating in their own way. In fact, we are taught that the heylige froyin (women) were the reason that the Yiddin were redeemed altogether. Says the Medrish: “Bis’char Noshim Tzidkoniyois SheHayu BiOsoi HaDoir Nigalu”, they (the men) were redeemed in the merit of the righteous women.
After Moishe sang his ever popular number one single of Oz Yoshir, and who amongst us doesn’t get the chills mamish when we hear it being read, Miriam and the women sang and banged. Miriam the prophetess, the older sister of Aharoin and Moishe and now well into her eighties, took a drum in her hand; and all the women went out following [Miriam] with drums and dancing. Efsher you’re wondering how it so happened that Miriam and seemingly other women were all packing drums. Nu, you’re not alone, and so was Moishe. Says the Medrish: Moishe taka asked Miriam how she and the women should happen to have had drums with them, when they had to flee in such haste that they didn’t even have time to let the bread rise! Said Miriam: “We packed our musical instruments because we knew we would need them to sing our heart song after the deliverance.” The women believed the RBSO would one day redeem them and came prepared to celebrate.
Did we just read that the Yiddin were redeemed from Mitzrayim because of the merits of the good and righteous women? Indeed we did and what’s taka pshat? Ober (but) listen to this Yalkut Shimoni who says azoy: when the Yiddin were crossing the Red Sea, the Malach Hamoves (angel of death- aka: prosecuting angel) argued that it was inappropriate for the RBSO to perform miracles on their behalf since they had worshipped avoida zoro (idolatry) while over in Egypt. Efsher you’re wondering why the Malach Hamoves waited so long to prosecute and bring charges? If their idolatrous practices represented a reason for them to perish, why did the malach wait until this point to make this argument instead of pressing his claim during Makas Choishech when, according to Rashi quoting one source, he was already on the prowl and wiped out 12 million Yiddin? He did? Was he at his limit? Ober listen to this givaldige answer because it affects most of you oisvorfs.
Says the Meshech Chochmah azoy: while in Mitzrayim, the Yiddin, much as many of you are you are today, especially those on vacation, were steeped in the 49th level of spiritual impurity and worshipped idolatry just like the Mitzrim. And what saved them and made them redemption worthy? Seemingly they had one big zechus (merit) and efsher you recall the Oisvorfer teaching way back (one page) that the RBSO looks for and gives credit for every good deed. And their one big zechus (merit) according to Medrish (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5) was (believe it or not)… that they dwelled peacefully and didn’t gossip about one another. In other words: there was no loshoin horah (they didn’t bad mouth each other) while slaves. You hear this? Can you imagine 15 million Yiddin in Mitzrayim and no loshoin horo? Can you imagine two? And can you imagine no loshoin horo for 210 years, how about 210 minutes? Nu, luckily it’s only a Medrish and though avada every Medrish is true, some just didn’t happen yet, efsher one day. Nu, for now, let’s make believe it did. Haven’t you ever sat around the table with friends and family and not uttered one word of loshoin horo? Don’t answer that! Ober seemingly this is what took place and as a result of the lack of loshoin horo, the RBSO forgave their other communal sins and miraculously performed the ten makois (plagues) to bring about their salvation. That’s not to suggest that the prosecuting angel didn’t have grounds for his argument: it so happens he was overruled by the RBSO and lost the case. Seemingly the lack of loshoin horah was such a neys (miracle) that the RBSO decided not to listen to the malach hamoves and instead repaid the Yiddin with a miracle of his own. Nu, need more be said? Unfortunately, such a miracle (no loshoin hora), if it ever happened, was never again to be seen.
Says the Medrish (VaYikra Rabba 32:5): Reb Huna said in the name of Bar Kappra: Due to four things were the Yiddin redeemed from Mitzrayim. 1) They changed neither their names; 2) nor their language; 3) they did not speak bad of one another; 4) there was not found among them even one individual who was engaged in promiscuous behavior. Whether or not they spoke loshoin horo, ver veyst, ober one thing is zicher: not long following the open miracles which they experienced, the Yiddin began complaining to Moishe. They were hungry, thirsty, and maybe even feeling a shtikel remorseful about being a freed people. Seemingly, they still had a slave mentality. How could this taka be, did they all complain and who were these people?
And speaking of 15 million possibly not speaking loshoin horo, do all agree as to how many people actually were in or left Mitzrayim: zicher nisht. And to chap the real number, at least one possibility of a real number, we must avada go back and look at the beginning of the parsha where we learn that the RBSO took the Yiddin on a circuitous route and that they left Mitzrayim “chamushim”. And what does chamushim mean? Grada, we covered this topic last week and just last night the Oisvorfer ran into a reader who taka enjoyed pshat. This week we’ll take another look at this word and what it could have meant to different people. Nu, it depends on who you ask and many were taka perplexed by the usage of this particular adjective and avada when Midroshim and other sources were mystified by a word or phrase in the heylige Toirah, imaginations ran wild and many different approaches and suggestions were offered. Lommer lernin what a few suggested. Some say the word connotes “loaded down with wealth” and avada you recall that the Yiddin were instructed to ‘borrow’ (permanently-akin to when people borrow money from you) gold silver and other precious items during the mako of choishech (darkness). Others say the term means the Yiddin left Mitzrayim “highhandedly”(with their heads held high), in contrast to how we would have expected newly freed slaves to conduct themselves. Still others suggest that the root of the word means five and posited approaches off this number.
Says Targum Yoinoson: each adult was accompanied by five children. According to his view, no matter how many children one had, they only left with five? Ver veyst, ober says the Ba’al HaTurim: the Yiddin left Mitzrayim armed and ready for battle; each Yid carried 5 different types of armaments.
Efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO had them carrying different weaponry and preparing for war? Didn’t He just redeem the Yiddin and perform open miracles? Were they now going to face new enemies along the way to the Promised Land and fight them with these armaments? Nu, pat yourselves on the back because Rabbaynu Bachaye taka asked di zelba kasha (same question). Says RB azoy: the RBSO does taka perform miracles for the Yiddin daily ober the Yiddin must avada do their hishtadlus (their part). Though the RBSO does the heavy lifting, so to speak, the Yiddin needed arms to do their part as we learn during the war with Amolake, that giferliche minuvil, and as described near the end of this week’s parsha. We are taught that the RBSO, when performing miracles, wishes that such phenomena appear to come about via natural rather than supernatural causes. Requiring that the Yiddin be armed, parallels the RBSO’s causing a wind to blow prior to the descent of the locusts upon the Mitzrim, as well as before the splitting of the sea and myriad other such examples. Gishmak.
Ober listen to this amazing and mind boggling Mechilta who is quoted by Rashi and others. Says he: that either only one fifth, one fiftieth, or most extraordinarily, one five hundredth of the Yiddin now safely across the Sea, left Mitzrayim when the time came to depart. If any of his theories are correct, the original size of the Jewish people prior to their departure from Mitzrayim consequently becomes multiples of 603,550 (BaMidbar 1:46), the sum of the Jewish men, excluding Sheyvet ( tribe) Levi, above the age of twenty. In other words, there were either 3,017,750; 30,177,500; or 301,775,000 Yiddin in Mitzrayim! In any event, quite the number and avada further proof of the fertility of the Jewish women in Mitzrayim during the enslavement. Nu, it’s zicher no wonder then that Paroy, back in Parshas Shemois, got nervous about the Jewish population outnumbering his. A parallel Midrashic tradition appearing in Shemois Rabba 14:3 assumes that those Yiddin who refused to leave, died during the plague of darkness, so that their absence would not be noticed by the Mitzrim, who would assume that the missing individuals left with their co-religionists once permission was granted by Paroy. The resulting fantastical, mind-boggling numbers of deaths that the Yiddin suffered at that time then becomes: 2,414,200; 24,142,000; or 241,420,000! Were they wiped out because of mixed swimming, ver veyst?
Parshas Bishalach is, as we have said earlier, terribly exciting and contains one of the key seminal moments in our history. Hundreds of pages can be written quoting various medrashic interpretations ober the plane is mamish about to land.
A gittin shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv