Parshat בשלח Shmos 14:20 – The Angels Weren’t Able to Sing

Shmos 14:20 –  And he [the angel] came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel, and there were the cloud and the darkness, and it illuminated the night, and one did not draw near the other all night long.

Gemora – Megila 10b: Rabbi Yochanan asked, what is the meaning of the verse “and one did not draw near the other all night long”? [It means] that the Ministering Angels wanted to sing, but God said to them, “the work of my hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation Of Comment #9:
The phrase “the work of my hands” is reference to the Egyptians, who in spite of everything, are still God’s creations just like any other person. The [grammatical] reason for Rabbi Yochanan’s comment is that in the previous verse the word “camp” is referenced in the plural while in our verse the word “camp” is referenced in the singular. Thus the verse should have stated “and they [the Egyptian camp and the Israelite camp] did not draw near to each other all night long”. This change is the reason why it is taught that the verse is referencing the Angels not coming near to each other – one Angel for the pillar of file that went before them and the other Angel for the pillar of cloud that went behind them. This is in accordance with the verse in Psalms 104:4 “He makes winds His messengers [angels], burning fire His ministers [angels].

Now since the Jews had stopped traveling and stopped, it is obviously that the two pillars [and their accompanying angels] did not, at that point, draw near to each other. Thus, why would the verse even state that they did not draw near to each other? The reason is to teach the fact that they did not even draw near to each other in a spiritual manner, meaning that even for singing they were not allowed to come spiritually near to each other. This teaching relies on the phrase “did not come near” as being a reference to the verse in Isaiah 6:3 – And one called to the other and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” The angels joined together to say [sing] God’s praises because the natural way for song is to sing in a group.

Look further at the Beis Yosef on Orach Chaim Section 490 who quotes the Midrash “Harninu” the reason why we don’t say [sing] a full Hallel on the intermediate and last days of Passover is because of the this reason that “the work of my hands is drowning in the sea”. This idea, however, requires further investigation. Behold, we see that Moshe and [all of] Israel themselves sang on the seventh day [of Passover] and we also [in synagogue service] say the Song of the Sea. Rather it is clear that the caution against singing is [only] at the actual time of the drowning and prior to that. However, after the fact, singing God’s praises is allowed.

This approach is alluded to in the Gemora’s discussion on this topic in Sanhedrin 39b. The teaching is that the caution against singing is only at the time of the drowning [and beforehand]. This is also stated in the Mechilta (16:1) that on the seventh day of Passover, the angels sang. This would all be in accordance with the approach that we stated above. This is also the way to explain the Gemora Berachos 9b in referencing the Hallel that King David sang upon the downfall of the evildoers – the singing was not at the actual time of their downfall but rather afterwards.

In addition to these above listed reasons, I don’t know what the halachic commentators and the Midrash Harninu are forced to say in regard to the Gemora Arachin 10b where it explains that the reason why we don’t pray the whole Hallel on the Intermediate and Latter Days of Passover is because there is no unique sacrificial offerings on those days. This is in contrast to the holiday of Succos where we do offer unique sacrificial offerings each day and where we do pray the whole Hallel each day. It seems also that this explanation is more logical. After all, if the reason we don’t pray the whole Hallel is due to the Egyptians historically drowning during this time, then what logical distinction would there be between praying the whole Hallel and praying half-Hallel?

One point that can be derived from this discussion is a comment on what the Chavos Yair writes in his Responsum Section 225. There he writes that we do not follow the custom of saying Yotzrot [special additional prayers] on the Seventh Day of Passover. The Chavos Yair states that the reason why we don’t relates to the fact that God did not permit the angels to sing Hallel. [I think] this reason does not make any sense at all. According to that which we have written above, the command to the angels only applied at the night before the Seventh Day but that actual during the day Moshe, the Bnei Israel and the angels all did sing songs [of praise.]

 Editor’s Note: This midrash is popular in certain Jewish groups. It is interesting to see the Torah Temimah take a more learned approach.

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