Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Teves 5760 - December 29, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Those In Chariots and Those On Horses

by L. Jungerman

The Egyptian exile was a cornerstone in the foundation of the Jewish nation, a stone which the `builders despised,' originally, but which turned out, at the end of the process, to be a foundation stone.

Since the end result of the Egyptian exile was the foundation of our faith, "I am Hashem your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt," we should, therefore, conclude that the essence of this exile, the process, was reverse, a denial of G-d. Thus, on the basis of the ruins of this rejection of Hashem was faith built up.

This premise is elaborated upon in Machshovos Chorutz:

The primary message of the Egyptian rule was "The Nile is mine and I created it" (Yechezkel 29). They boasted being a superpower, independent of any other force. The greatest arsenal of weapons was stockpiled in Egypt. "The horses of Pharaoh, his chariots and horsemen." This was the symbol of the greatest might of those times, and when the Torah warns Jewish kings against accumulating horses, it gives a reason: Lest this lead the people back to Egypt.

Rashi comments that the best horses were bred there, and a desire to accumulate thoroughbreds would lead the people back to Egypt. We find that King Shlomo ignored this warning and purchased chariots valued at six hundred ingots of silver and horses at one hundred and fifty. Egypt was the major supplier of the sophisticated arms of the world in those times.

The horse, symbol of Egypt, represents far more. It symbolizes self assurance, self sufficiency, arrogance and heresy. When the prophet calls out to the people, "Shuvoh Yisroel -- Return O Yisroel unto Hashem your G-d," he first and foremost stresses, "Upon a horse we shall not ride." This realization is the first opening to real teshuvah. "Those come with chariots and those are mounted on horses, but we come in the name of Hashem." These opposed to those. Those who are mounted upon horses do not come in the name of Hashem.

They sat on their horses, high and mighty. This was a country which didn't need rain from heaven. The Nile flooded periodically and irrigated the land. Its people did not need to lift their eyes upward and pray. The economy flourished and they were complacent. This situation could not have arisen in Eretz Yisroel because there, the economy was dependent upon rain, and one must pray for rain -- look heavenward and hope and pray. You can't sit astride your high horse and feel like you're master of everything.

Yeshaya prophesises upon Egypt, "Therefore I have called this Rahav." Rashi explains this name as "Coarse spirited." Vulgar and arrogant. The name `Rahav' says it all. The Nile is mine and I created it. I created myself. I am the be-all and end-all. The perversions that filled the land were a direct result of this attitude of unbridled egotism.

The world center of sorcery found its way here, too. Why is kishuf called thus? The word is an acronym of kichush pamalya shel maala -- a denial of the celestial powers (Chulin 7). And who better than the Egyptians denied a power above them. Why, they didn't even ever look up!

And then came the end.

At the very climax of their downfall, at the splitting of Yam Suf, "Horse and rider were cast into the sea." This was the decisive stage, the critical moment of Egypt's downfall, its disintegration, the crumbling of its myth, the drowning of its gods. Horse and rider were cast into the sea. And I will deposit your corpses upon the corpses of your abominations. Where are their gods? The rock upon which they depended? Let them come and rescue them!

The result was immediate. "I shall sing to Hashem for He is very mighty." When He drowned the horse, it was a victory for the Kingdom of Heaven. They saw that He was the A- mighty. "This is the essence of the shira," writes the Netziv in Ha'ameik Dovor. The women who burst forth in dance repeated this very verse. "I shall sing unto Hashem for He is very mighty. Horse and rider did He cast into the sea." This paved the way for the giving of the Torah.

Forty-two days later, the people stood at Mount Sinai. This people had personally witnessed that strength is not to the mighty nor does Hashem seek the prowess of the warhorse. The people heard Hashem speak from the fire and say, "I am Hashem your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt." This would serve as the basis of the rest of the Torah. "All of the commandments are a remembrance of the exodus, for Egypt is the very antithesis of the Torah and its code of commandments," explains R' Tzodok Hacohen.


"Your throne was established of yore; You are from the beginning of the world." Chazal say that even though Hashem existed before the world was created, still, His throne was only firmly established when His children sang His praises in Oz Yoshir (Midrash Rabba). R' Leib Bloch zt'l explains in Shiurei Daas that so long as the thesis of kochi ve'otzem yodi -- my might and my power -- reigns supreme, there can be no resting place for the Kingdom of Hashem on earth, as it were. It is challenged through man's ignorant arrogance. One who is boastful pushes aside the feet of the Shechina, so to speak. "I and he cannot reside in proximity." If he takes up the space, I must leave. We cannot coexist.

But at that special moment in time when the horse and rider plummeted into the depths, when the pyramid of Egyptian pride crumbled and disintegrated, then, on that day, was Hashem able to reign alone and supreme. Then was His throne firmly established on earth.

And then, at that point, did Moshe and the Children of Israel sing . . .

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