From the teachings of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l. written by his grandson HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a
translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK
It states in this week’s Parashah, “It was when Paro sent the people away” (Shemot 13:17).
Our chachamim ask in the Midrash (Midrash Rabba Beshalach), who said the Hebrew letters “Va’ye”? They answer that Paro said “Va’ye”! (this is what is meant by the Hebrew words “Va’yehi Beshalach” (“It was when he sent”) which are split as follows “Va’ye” “hi” “Beshalach”. Meaning that Paro said “Oy Vavoy” (Woe) to me for freeing Am Yisrael. In fact every time the passuk states, “Va’yehi” it is explained so by our chachamim). Why was Paro distressed for having released Am Yisrael?
There is a passuk in Mishlei (24:30-31), “I passed by the field of a lazy man, and by the vineyard of a man lacking [an understanding] heart, and, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; nettles had covered its surface; and its stone wall was broken down”, and our chachamim explained the passuk as referring to Paro.
This is analogous to a person who owned a field and he didn’t care for it properly. He wasn’t bothered about the field and he was too lazy to exert himself to work it and cultivate it. Over time, the field became a mound of ruins, a pile of stone and earth. The man saw that the field was worthless and he had to pay yearly tax for it. He decided that he has no benefit from the land, so he sold it to someone else. That person was diligent and invested greatly in the field. He cleared it and removed all the stones and discovered underneath it a wellspring. He planted in the field rows and rows of vineyards, pomegranates, palm trees, as well as rows designated to roses, myrrh and aloes with all the chief spices, which emit strong aromas afar. Anyone who passed around the area of the field would benefit from its sight and would praise the person who had cultivated the field that had been neglected for so many years.
The person that sold the field passed by and couldn’t believe his eyes. He began hitting his head, crying and saying, woe to me that I sold this field!
Likewise with the wicked Paro. As long as they were imprisoned in Egypt they were lowly and contemptible slaves and he didn’t recognise their unique features, and Paro didn’t have the common sense to take advantage of their precious qualities. Therefore Am Yisrael were comparable to a pile of earth and stones about whom it states, “As chaste as a garden locked, My sister, O bride” (Shir HaShirim 4:12). But after they left Egypt and entered Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership it is then stated about them, “Purified in a garden spring, a well of waters alive and flowing clean from Lebanon” (ibid. 4:15), because then they received the Holy Torah and the Word of Hashem began to bubble in them. Then all of Am Yisrael saw Divine visions and then they became famous worldwide with their precious qualities. Their wisdom and understanding became known in the whole world and then the wicked Paro exclaimed, “Va’ye, Va’ye, (Woe, woe) that this treasured people have left my dominion!” This is what it meant by “It was when Paro sent the people away”, he blubbered that Am Yisrael had left his land.
After this, Hashem split the sea before the Bnei Yisrael and they passed through on dry land into the sea. “Then Moshe and Bnei Yisrael sang this song to Hashem…My strength and song is Hashem and this is my deliverance” (Shemot 15:1-2). This passuk was recited by Moshe Rabbeinu and our chachamim explain it as follows:
Moshe Rabbeinu’s birthday is known as the 7th of Adar. On this day Moshe was both born and passed away from this world. Before Moshe Rabbeinu was born, Amram, Moshe’s father, saw and considered Paro’s decree, “Every boy who is born must be cast into the Nile” (Shemot 1:22). Therefore he divorced his wife and separated from her so that she won’t bear any children, for they would then kill her children. His daughter Miriam observed this, she was a mere 6 years old, and she said to him, “Father! Your decree is harsher than Paro’s decree! For Paro only decreed on the males whereas you decree also on the females! See with your own eyes that because of your actions, all of Am Yisrael are divorcing their wives! And I have seen in a prophetic vision that a son will be born to Am Yisrael who will deliver them from Egypt.” Amram listened to his daughter’s words and remarried Yocheved his wife. Likewise all of Am Yisrael remarried their wives.
Before Amram divorced Yocheved she was already pregnant but they didn’t know this. After when Amram remarried her, three months had already passed from her pregnancy and so Moshe was born only after six months. She was therefore able to conceal him at home for three months until she could no longer do so. She placed him in a basket and placed him in the rushes near the riverbank (ibid. 2:2), and then the water was knocking against the basket.
Our chachamim disputed which day this was. Some say that it was the 6th of Sivan, exactly three months after Moshe’s birth. At the moment that Moshe was in the Nile, the angles pleaded with Hashem. Master of the World! This [little] one who will eventually give the Torah to Am Yisrael is in danger! Hashem made Batya, Paro’s daughter, have compassion and save Moshe from the Nile!
Others however say that it wasn’t exactly three months from his birth but rather approximately three months. Moshe was born on the 7th of Adar Rishon and that year was a leap year. So until the end of the majority of the month in which he was born, is month one. Then follows Adar Sheni, a complete month, this is month two. And then the majority of the month of Nissan for on the 7th day of Pesach (21st of Nissan) Moshe was placed in the basket in the Nile [this is the third month]. The angels pleaded before Hashem, Master of the World, the one who is destined to sing the Shirah (Song) before You, today is in danger! Hashem made Batya, Paro’s daughter, have compassion and save Moshe from the Nile!
And so we there is one opinion that the merit of the Torah saved Moshe Rabbeinu, when the angles mentioned the Torah, this aroused mercy towards Moshe. And another view that the merit of the Shirah saved Moshe Rabbeinu, since the Shirah at the sea was sung on the 7th day of Pesach.
Therefore Moshe said, “My strength and song is Hashem and this is my deliverance”, “My strength” is the Torah, for strength is referred to elsewhere in the Tenach as meaning the Torah [see Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 244], and “song is Hashem” refers to the Shirah at the sea. “This is my deliverance”, for these two saved Moshe from the Nile!
The angles found merit for Moshe and Hashem saved him. Also in the future, Hashem will perform miracles and wonders for us that no one could ever dream of. For if Hashem will simply perform the same miracles as happened in Egypt, it won’t be so novelle because we relate every year at Seder Night those miracles. Therefore Hashem will make for us new miracles and wonders, “I will perform miracles that have never been brought into existence in all the world, among any nation” (Shemot 34:10). In this way Am Yisrael will be astonished at the miracles that Hashem will perform for us, may His Name be praised. “Awesome in praise, doing wonders” (ibid. 15:11), “As in the days when you left the land of Egypt, I will show it wonders” (Michah 7:15). Amen ken yehi ratzon.