Paroy: King of Ninvey & The First Jewish Vacation Spot
Paroy, king of where? Was Paroy (Pharaoh) the bad and wicked king of Mitzrayim who enslaved and punished the Yiddin for 210 years, also the king of Ninvey? Stay tuned.
Shoin…Last week (Parshas Boi) we read how the RBSO delivered the last three makos (plagues) upon the Mitzrim (Egyptians). Immediately thereafter, Paroy had finally seen enough and chased the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim. And then? Welcome to Parshas Bishalach, also known as “Shabbis Shira” wherein the heylige Toirah will tell us how Paroy and Mitzrim had a sudden change of heart once they realized the Yiddin, their slaves, were not coming back after three days. They gave chase, ober the RBSO performed miracle after miracle for His soon to be Chosen People. We’ve all read the heylige Toirah and most have seen the movie. Or, farkert!
The Yiddin – at least one, a good man by the name of Nachshoin ben Aminodov- jumped into the water, the sea split, the Yiddin crossed over on dry land, the Mitzrim gave chase, the sea walls reverted to their natural state, and all the Mitzrim drowned. Amazing mamish. Ober, were any left over? Did anyone survive? And the answer is? It depends. Depends on what? Depends on which rabbi’s pshat talks to you. Let’s find out what they were arguing about. Ober, first let’s learn the one posik causing the controversy. In fact, let’s learn two. Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 14:26-28), azoy:
|26. Thereupon, the Lord said to Moishe, Stretch out your hand over the sea, and let the water return upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen||כווַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה נְטֵ֥ה אֶת־יָֽדְךָ֖ עַל־הַיָּ֑ם וְיָשֻׁ֤בוּ הַמַּ֨יִם֙ עַל־מִצְרַ֔יִם עַל־רִכְבּ֖וֹ וְעַל־פָּֽרָשָֽׁיו:
|27. So Moishe stretched out his hand over the sea, and toward morning the sea returned to its strength, as the Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord stirred the Egyptians into the sea.||כזוַיֵּט֩ משֶׁ֨ה אֶת־יָד֜וֹ עַל־הַיָּ֗ם וַיָּ֨שָׁב הַיָּ֜ם לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּ֨קֶר֙ לְאֵ֣יתָנ֔וֹ וּמִצְרַ֖יִם נָסִ֣ים לִקְרָאת֑וֹ וַיְנַעֵ֧ר יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶת־מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיָּֽם:
|28. And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, the entire force of Paroy coming after them into the sea; not even one of them survived.||כחוַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ הַמַּ֗יִם וַיְכַסּ֤וּ אֶת־הָרֶ֨כֶב֙ וְאֶת־הַפָּ֣רָשִׁ֔ים לְכֹל֙ חֵ֣יל פַּרְעֹ֔ה הבָּאִ֥ים אַֽחֲרֵיהֶ֖ם בַּיָּ֑ם לֹֽא־נִשְׁאַ֥ר בָּהֶ֖ם עַד־אֶחָֽד:|
A shtikel dispute arose because of the last five words of posik 28 which tells us that “there remained not a one of them.” Nu, does that mean that none survived? Not even one? Or, do the words perhaps mean they all perished, but one of them? Nu, the heylige Gemora records the machloikes (disagreement) between Rebbe Yehudah and Rebbe Nichemia which goes azoy: Said Rebbe Yehudah: they all died. Fartig. And “all” would include everyone, King Paroy among the dead. Ober said Rebbe Nichemia that Rebbe Yehudah was all wet and that pshat is azoy: they all died but one. Who survived? Our main protagonist, King Paroy himself. As an aside, their entire dispute hangs on the meaning and conjunction of the Hebrew word “Ad.” Ober if Paroy the farbrecher (very bad man) survived, what the hec happened to him? And before we answer that, hear this. According to one medrish, there were many survivors. There were? Who were they? Says the medrish, they were foreign mercenaries whom Paroy had hired to fight alongside his army. They, according to this pshat, survived death by drowning -they did first suffer for their sins- but lived to go home and tell the rest of world about the great miracles the RBSO performed for the Yiddin. Says the Yalkut: the survival of the mercenaries is taka one of the great miracles the RBSO performed at sea, and especially so, given that not one Egyptian survived. Not one? Ober what about Paroy himself?
Says the Pirkei D’ Rebbe Eliezer (43) this most amazing pshat which goes azoy: Paroy taka did survive. And then? Shoin, having seen his entire army wiped out, and having witnessed Egypt being depleted of its riches (as the Yiddin borrowed (took) all they could carry in gold and silver with them…and having lost additional riches which adorned its chariots, also lost at sea), it was time for a new start. Paroy then traveled to Ninvey (Ninveh) where somehow he managed to become king again. Ober how? And why would the RBSO allow him to survive? Wasn’t he the central character and a really bad guy? Paroy was seemingly a survivor, the comeback king of the year. Actually, according to this medrish, he was not just comeback king of the year but ruled over Ninvey for 500 years. Ninvey? 500 years? Isn’t Ninvey the city to where the prophet Yona was sent by the RBSO in order to urge its inhabitants to do tshuva (repent)? Is this the same Ninvey we read about on Yom Kippur? Indeed it is.
Why did Paroy, bad guy that he was, merit to survive and also thrive? Shoin: according to the view that he survived and then traveled to rule in Ninvey, it appears that Paroy did t’shuva (full repentance) which the RBSO seemingly accepted. When did Paroy repent? Says the Michilta: although Paroy really tortured the Yiddin and then led his nation on the chase, and though he was wicked, at the last moment the RBSO miraculously saved him. Why? Says Rabbi Yosef Deutch azoy: As Paroy was witnessing the destruction of his army and the disintegration of his nation, he declared “Who is like You among the mighty, O Hashem.” And because Paroy uttered those words with sincerity, he did real t’shuva. Though he had committed terrible and heinous crimes, the RBSO chose to forgive him. And that raboyseyee, is more than givaldige news for kimat all of the Oisvorfer’s readers. You all know what you’ve done, ober don’t fret. The RBSO awaits your words of repentance and life will be good again. Then again, you should not be sinning deliberately knowing and memorizing the words Paroy uttered. And especially not all over again. It might just be the case that this particular t’shuva declaration has but a one-time use. Then again, there is always Yom Kippur.
And says the Toisefta to Targum Yoina (Yonah 3:6), azoy: having learned his lesson, Paroy recognized the greatness of the RBSO. When Yoinah -having survived his whale of a fish myseh- arrived and urged Ninvey’s inhabitants to repent, Paroy did indeed do just that. Amazing! Wait: there’s more. Another medrish, one the Oisvorfer found in the writings of Rabbi Elie Munk (The Call of the Torah) teaches us that Paroy not only survived the Yam Suf debacle, he never died. He didn’t? Ever? And where is he? Seemingly, according to this medrish, Paroy stands at the gates of hell where he greets new entrants with the following words: “Why haven’t you learned from my life’s experiences? I denied the RBSO’s existence. He punished me severely, but He ultimately forgave me. Now I can believe only in Him.” The bottom line (according to this understanding) is azoy: Paroy got a second chance and rose to the occasion.
As an aside, Ninvey was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until the year 612 BC when, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria, it was sacked by a coalition of its former subject peoples, the Babylonians, Medes, Chaldeans, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq.
Earlier this week, in response to the question what the Oisvorfer’s main topic was, and after answering that I would be discussing the dispute over whether or not one Mitzri survived, chaver Ephraim Frenkel suggested his own pshat on why we should learn that one Mitzri did survive. Said R’ Ephraim azoy: instead of reading the words “Ad Echod” (up to one), we might read the words as “Eyd Echod” meaning one witness. According to this reading, the RBSO let Paroy live in order for him to be a living witness and to proclaim to others that he was wrong and the RBSO right. Gishmak!
Shoin: whether Paroy drowned or remained alive, ver veyst? The bottom line: the Yiddin zicher experienced many great miracles at the sea. In fact, we make mention of them yearly at the Passover Seder. Ober what happened next? Nu, after 210 years of slavery, zicher they were entitled to and needed badly, a vacation. Says the heylige Toirah, they next traveled to a place called Moro where they encountered undrinkable bitter waters. They were undrinkable. There Moishe threw a piece of wood, or tree bark, into the water and the waters instantly sweetened. We are taught that at Moro, the RBSO also commanded the Yiddin on a number of mitzvos. More on that below and remember this thought. Exactly which commandments were taught there is avada a dispute -a big one- one we will not cover this year. What we will cover is their second stop as recorded in the heylige Toirah. As an aside, most agree that their stay in Moro was but one day.
Let’s learn one posik you mistama have never seen, and if you did, you never stopped to think about. Says the heylige Toirah (15:27) azoy:
|27. They came to Elim, and there were twelve water fountains and seventy palms, and they encamped there by the water.||כזוַיָּבֹ֣אוּ אֵילִ֔מָה וְשָׁ֗ם שְׁתֵּ֥ים עֶשְׂרֵ֛ה עֵינֹ֥ת מַ֖יִם וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים תְּמָרִ֑ים וַיַּֽחֲנוּ־שָׁ֖ם עַל־הַמָּֽיִם:|
Water springs? Palm trees? What the hec is going on here? Is it not a shtikel unusual for the heylige Toirah to describe the scenery at a particular location? Indeed it is. Why is the heylige Toirah telling us about springs of water and date palms? And just what is the significance of 12 water springs and 70 date palms? Though these questions never entered your mind, they did bother Rashi and a number of exegetes. Lommer lernin (learn) what a few had to say.
Says Rashi who avada knew everything, ahoy: The 12 water springs corresponded to the 12 shevotim (tribes), and the 70 date palms corresponded to the 70 elderly. Who were these elderly and why did they need palm trees? Shoin, that my friends is for another day because, as you can imagine, there is much written on just who these 70 elderly were and whey they may have needed their own date palm trees. Ober let’s go veyter and ask azoy? Why did the Yiddin travel to this place called Aylima (aka: Eilim) anyway? Nu, if the heylige Toirah went out of its way to tell us that they went there and that they rested there by the water, it must have been a significant moment.
Says the Chizkuni so gishmak azoy: the Yiddin traveled to Aylima in order to learn the heylige Toirah. The heylige Toirah? Ober there was no Toirah yet. The heylige Toirah was still a bit away (we will read all about it deliverance (Revelation) in next week’s parsha). Ober says the Chizkuni: there was Toirah! Ober how was that possible? Shoin, let’s go back and read posik 25 (Shemois 15:25) which tells us that “there He established for “it” (the nation) a decree and an ordinance, and there He tested it (the Yiddin).” He did what? Shoin, earlier we mentioned that at Moro, the RBSO commanded the Yiddin in certain mitzvois. And the proof is these very words where the Toirah tells us that “there” -meaning over at Moro, the RBSO already had given the Yiddin certain laws. Shoin, what did the Yiddin do? They went straight to Aylima to study and chazir (review) the new laws. Ober, what about the natural springs of water, 12 of them and the 70 date palms?
Why did the heylige Toirah specifically mention the surroundings? What taka was so significant about the 12 springs of water and 70 date palms? Says the Ibn Ezra: not only were there 70 date palms but that each was of a different species or variety. Others suggest that there was one date palm for each person. That would make for approximately 5 million date palms if you include the over two million Erev Rav who schlepped along with the Yiddin. How many date palms were there? Ver veyst?
Says the RambaN (Nachmanides): the reason the heylige Toirah specifically mentioned the springs and date palms was because the RBSO placed them there in Aylim from the beginning of time. They were seemingly placed there in wait for the Yiddin. The RBSO avada knew that one day His soon to be Chosen People, after complaining bitterly about the waters in Moro, and after being given a number of significant commandments, also in Moro, would badly be in need of a vacation. You can only imagine how happy they were after hearing they could no longer tear toilet paper on shabbis. They all had headaches. What they wanted and needed was some well deserved r&r (rest and relaxation). In fact, some say (Michilta) that neither the springs nor the palm dates were in Aylim until the Yiddin arrived there. The RBSO sensed their fragility, knew the Yiddin were not quite ready for prime time, and decided to turn Aylim into a resort spot. He gave them natural water springs -seemingly one for each sheyvet (tribe)- as well as, at least 70 date palms to share. Adds the Michilta: the date palms sprang up and each was laden with different kinds of fruit. Gishmak.
Says the Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson): the reason the heylige Toirah mentioned the water springs and the date palms was to teach us how good this place Aylim was. Especially so when compared to Moro. And because its waters were sweet and it had shade (how 5 million people found shade under 70 palm trees, ver veyst). Ober he and others suggest that Aylim was in fact somewhat of a resort town, a place where the Yiddin enjoyed themselves. Moreover, it was, says Rabaynu Bachaya the opposite of what they experienced over in Moro. Therefore, say a number of medroshim including the Seder Hadoirois, that while the Yiddin only stayed over in Moro for one day, they wound up staying in Aylim for a full twenty days. Their first ever vacation. The bottom line: ever since the RBSO introduced the Yiddin to date palms and springs of water, they have been drawn to resorts in Miami and surrounding areas, to Los Angeles and surrounds, to Las Vegas, to Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona which feature large date palms, and resort pools with waterfalls. It’s our tradition, and of course when it comes to tradition, even more than law, we follow it. We love traditions, it’s the law that continues to vex us.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv