Category Archives: Parshat בשלח

Parshat בשלח

Parshat בשלח Shmos 15:26– Don’t Spit During Prayers  

Shmos 15:26 –  And He said, if you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you.

Gemora – Sanhedrin 90a: One who whispers on a wound and says “All the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you” has no portion in the world to come.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation of Comment #44:
The Gemora in our chapter (101a) notes that Rabbi Yochanan states that the Gemora is speaking of a situation where someone spits; this being forbidden because it is not proper to mention God’s name while spitting. Rashi there explains that it is the way of whisperers to spit prior to their whisper. In other words, based on Rashi, first they spit and then they say the verse with God’s name in it, “For I, the Lord, heal you.” However, the Tur in Yoreh Deah Section 179 states that the custom of whisperers is to say the verse first [with God’s name in it] and then spit.

Thus, according to the Tur, there would be support for the custom of those who spit during the Alenu prayer before they mention God’s name. The only prohibition being the opposite, namely to mention God’s name first and then spit. This would be prohibited because it would appear as though one is disparaging God’s name. But, if one follows the opinion of Rashi that spitting even before mentioning God’s name is also forbidden, then the custom of spitting during Alenu would be difficult [to support].  

That which the Tur writes in the above noted section that in those instances where it is obvious that one intends to honor God in spitting [as in the Alenu prayer] then it would be permitted, that doesn’t appear to be applicable. The case brought in our Gemora of one who is whispering upon a wound also does not mean to disrespect God, but rather the opposite is true in that he is honoring God by saying a verse that he hopes will cause healing. Nevertheless, the Gemora makes it clear that even in such a case it is still prohibited because it is just not honorable to mention God’s name in connection with spitting.

In summary, if one follows Rashi’s understanding of the Gemora, it is better to not spit during the Alenu prayer. This is how I have seen great men of our generation acting and I have followed their example.

 Editor’s Note: The bottom line is that the Torah Temimah is pointing out that it seems inappropriate to spit during prayers, no matter what.


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.

Parshat בשלח Shmos 17: 9 – The Nations of the World

Exodus 17:9 – And Moshe said to Yehoshua, select for us men and go out and fight against Amalek tomorrow; I will stand on the top of the hill with the Staff of God in my hand.

Mechilta: Moshe did not say “select for me” but rather “select for us”. From here we see that a student is as dear to a teacher as himself.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #5:

In Pirkei Avot (2:10) the phraseology is:” the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as your own”. Others have the text saying “the honor of your student should be as precious to you as your own”. From the Mechilta quoted above, it seems to be that the appropriate text in Pirkei Avot is: “the honor of your student”. Besides, it also says in Pirkei Avot (4:12) “the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as the honor of your teacher.” And also in the Mechilta here it separately and specifically addresses the issue of the “honor” of your friend. Additionally, please reference the Tosfot Yom Tov there and note that he, apparently, had not seen this Mechilta.

Note that the reason why Moshe assigned the task of fighting against Amalek to Yehoshua is mentioned is Pesikta Rabati and in the Midrash Raba here as follows: Why did Moshe assign this task to Yehoshua? Moshe said to him, “Your ancestor (Yosef) said “I fear God” (in parshat MiKetz). About Amalek on the other hand it is written (in parshat Ki Tetzei) “he does not fear God”. Let the descendent of the one who said “I fear God” fight against the descendent of the one who said “he doesn’t fear God”.

This aggada needs explaining. Do we not already know that Yosef feared God from other places besides where he makes the statement about himself? Are weren’t his brothers, who did not make this statement about themselves, also people who feared God? In what way exactly was Yosef’s level of fear of God higher than his brothers, [if any]?

Another amazing point about this midrash is that it is attributing Amalek’s principle sin to the fact that he was not a tribe that feared God!? Where do we find the phrase “feared God” as a description of other  non-Jews? In particular, we do find this phrase used for exceptional, special people such as Abraham (“Now I know that you fear God”) and Ovadiyahu (Kings I, Chapter 11) and Job (Chapter 1).

Therefore, it appears appropriate to conclude that this is exactly what the Mechilta is coming to teach; that non-Jews should also be people who fear God. It is incumbent upon them also and if they do not they are also liable for punishment. The proof of this is exactly from the story of Yosef when he says to his brother “I fear God”. Yosef says this while he was pretending to be an Egyptian. If it were not true that non-Jews also fear God, how could Yosef have said such a thing without giving away that he was of the tribe of Israel?

What we learn from Yosef’s saying this about himself is that it is expected that non-Jews also be people who fear God. Also we see that Amalek is liable for punishment since he says of himself that he does not fear God.

So from here we can conclude that it is perfectly appropriate for the descendent of one who said “I fear God” to be the one who fights against Amalek. It was exactly because without Yosef’s having said this, I would not have known a source for this principle that the nations of the world are [equally] liable and responsible for fulfilling the commandment to fear God.

DBS Note: I think the Torah Temimah chose this Mechilta because it points out that Jews and non-Jews are both obligated to fear God and equally capable in this regard. This viewpoint is not commonly expressed. Also, notice that the Mechilta that was selected really has nothing to do with explaining the posuk. Again, the Torah Temimah is going out of his way to teach us something from Jewish tradition vis-a-vis non-Jews that is not commonly taught.

Parshat בשלח Shmos 13:19 – Good Deeds Get Rewarded

Exodus 13:19 – Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him because he had made the Children of Israel swear saying that when God will visit you, take out my bones from here with you.

Gemora Yerushalmi Sotah: Chapter 1, Halacha 10: Rabbi Kruspi said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Why does it say “with him” [isn’t that superfluous]? It is to teach “with your own self you are doing it.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #74:

This interpretation depends on the earlier interpretation on this same sentence. Because Moshe personally dealt with the matter of bringing Yosef’s bones out of Egypt, Moshe himself then merited to have God himself bury Moshe’s bones. In other words, due to this mitzvah of Moshe, he then merited to the huge honor of having God himself bury him.

Behold, even though we’ve already explained in our commentary in Genesis 46:4 that when God says “I will surely bring you up” [in Hebrew the idea of surely is conveyed by repeating the word: BRING YOU UP]. The word is repeated to teach that the bones of all of Yosef’s brothers were also brought out of Egypt by the Jews when they left. If so, why does Moshe receive a special reward for personally bringing up Yosef’s bones? The answer, as explained in the Gemora Yerushalmi quoted above is that the Egyptians refused to let the Jews take the bones of Yosef.  Perhaps their reason for this was because of what is noted in the Gemora Sotah 13(a) that the Egyptians had placed the casket of Yosef into the Nile River in order that the river be thereby blessed. Also in the Gemora Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah Chapter 3, Halacha 2 it mentions that the people of Kut used to observe a Yosef Festival because God had blessed the House of Egypt on Yosef’s behalf.

So, only Moshe merited a special reward for bringing up Yosef’s bones from Egypt because it involved this extra effort due to the Egyptians refusal to let him do this.

DBS Note: May we all merit large and small rewards for the extra efforts that we put forth in the world.