Halacha for Friday 16 Shevat 5781 January 29 2021

Parashat Beshalach - Advice for Troubled Times - [Solutions not Considered]

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This Shabbat, Parashat Beshalach , we shall read about the Exodus of Bnei Yisrael from Egypt, whilst “Hashem went before them by day with a pillar of cloud, to guide them along the way. By night it appeared as a pillar of fire, providing them with light. And so, they could travel day and night” (Shemot 13:21).

When Paro the King of Egypt discovered that the Bnei Yisrael were continuing on their way beyond the original three days which they had requested, with no intention of returning to Egypt, he immediately took his army to pursue the Bnei Yisrael. As the passuk sates: “He took 600 chariots with chosen crews, as well as the entire chariot corps of Egypt, with supporting infantry for them all. Hashem hardened Paro King of Egypt’s heart, and he went after Bnei Yisrael. Meanwhile Bnei Yisrael were leaving in triumph” (Shemot 14:7-8).

Paro and his army are drawing near and the Bnei Yisrael are crying out in prayer to Hashem. [Hemmed between] the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. And yet, “Hashem said to Moshe, why are you crying out to me in prayer? Speak to the Bnei Yisrael and let them start moving!” (Shemot 14:15).

Rashi HaKadsoh quotes the Midrash: “We learn that whilst Moshe was standing praying, Hashem said to him, now is not the time for lengthy prayers, for Yisrael are in distress.”

Rabbeinu the Orach Chaim HaKadosh, (Reb Chaim ibn Atar z”l, 1696-1743) asks, why did Hashem say to Moshe, “Why are you crying out to me in prayer?” And to whom should he have cried out, if not Hashem? And especially at a time of great distress such as this, as it states: “At a time of distress I called out to Hashem” (Tehillim 118:5). And if Hashem points out to him that he is praying for too long, as Rashi explains, then surely as long as his prayer is not answered, it is incumbent upon him to continue praying! And if so, what is the meaning of “Why are you crying out to me”?

Because of this, the Orach Chaim explains a novel idea, a phenomenal principle and true solution for a person in distress. This is what he says: “It is explained based on Chazal’s adage, that when Yisrael are in a state of judgement, namely that the accuser says before Hashem, just as these worship idols – so do these worship idols! This is because Yisrael also worshipped idols in Egypt. And it is a known fact, that the power of mercy displayed towards a person is commensurate with a person’s good deeds and if good deeds are lacking, then the attribute of mercy cannot be aroused.

“And so, when Hashem saw that the attribute of justice acted as an accuser against the Jewish people, Hashem sought to find in Yisrael’s righteous favour. But there wasn’t sufficient power in the attribute of mercy, because Yisrael lacked good deeds. Therefore, He said to Moshe why do you cry out to me, as if to say, it is not dependent on Me, for I wish to perform a miracle, but because they are not worthy, the attribute of justice prevents it. Therefore, speak to the Bnei Yisrael, meaning that this is the best advice to enable the attribute of kindness mercy to prevail. Speak to Bnei Yisrael and they will strengthen wholeheartedly their belief and travel towards the sea ahead of it splitting, based on the trust that I will perform a miracle. Through this the attribute of mercy will prevail, and via this good deed a miracle will be performed for them.”

This means that to arouse the attribute of mercy, Yisrael had to perform an action! To enter the sea with complete faith that Hashem will perform a miracle, and only then will the sea split!

The Orach Chaim HaKadosh teaches us that when a person is in trouble and distressed and the attribute of justice has strengthened, then prayer is insufficient, but rather there is an immediate need to increase mitzvot and good deeds to give energy to the attribute of mercy to prevail over the attribute of justice. And then a person will merit to salvations and amazing miracles. As we learnt from the commentary of the Orach Chaim HaKadosh, that Hashem said to Moshe, “Why are you crying out to me in prayer?” Now is not the time for prayer! But rather one must do a tangible action of belief and trust, and through this all Yisrael merited to the miracle of the splitting of the Reed Sea.

And so Maran zt”l was accustomed to say, that when the Bnei Yisrael stood at the seabank, there were those who said it is worth returning to Egypt, those who said it is worth fighting and those who said to flee elsewhere. And so, there were many possible outcomes, however, one outcome wasn’t thought of which was the best option, that the sea will simply split into sections! When we trust in Hashem and believe in His salvation with our entire heart, we are truly able to see and merit His salvation.

Let a wise person listen and again further!

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha


Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

Separating the Tzitzit Strands

Question: My younger son wears a “Tallit Katan” (Tzitzit garment). When I see that the Tzitzit strands become entangled, may I untangle them on Shabbat? Answer: Before reciting a blessing on a Tallit or a Tallit Katan (Tzitzit garment), one must separate the Tzitzit strands from one a......

Read Halacha