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27 Adar II 5768 - April 3, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"As If He Himself Left Egypt"

by Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach zt"l

[This shmuess was delivered in 5743.]

The more we contemplate the parshiyos of Shemos relating the story of yetzias Mitzrayim and krias Yam Sufparshiyos that contain the principles of our emunah — the more we find new reasons, fresh understandings, and added clarity.

This Chumash — these parshiyos that contain the principles of our emunah — are also the foundation of other mitzvos whose essence is that they are "a remembrance of yetzias Mitzrayim." We must continually study them in order to define these principles, to refresh our perceptions and to find new understanding of the sublime ideas taught to us in Shemos. The Mesillas Yeshorim (in the introduction) clarifies that even matters which are simple and clear to all tend to be largely forgotten, and ignoring them is a widespread phenomenon. We must therefore stop for a moment and reflect about these foundations of faith.

After some contemplation we realize that not only do we believe in these principles but we are actively aware of them; we actually see them. There is no denying all the events that happened to our fathers when they left Egypt, just as a person cannot deny a reality that everyone sees. "In every generation a person is obliged to see himself as if he had left Egypt" (Pesochim 116b). This is not meant in a figurative sense only. This is not an Aggadah of the gemora but a genuine halachic obligation. A person must devote thought to this topic and envisage himself among the multitudes of Jews who left Egypt.


Let us open up Shemos and see what is written there. The Torah describes the exodus from Egypt of six hundred thousand adult males besides women and children. The number of adult males includes only those aged from twenty to sixty years. The total of those who left Egypt accordingly reaches into the millions. Those millions passed through the Yam Suf while walking on dry land. The ocean split before them into twelve sections, each shevet having its own passageway. Bnei Yisroel satisfied their hunger with sweet fruits that grew within the water. The Yam Suf became a palace!

An entire nation was chasing after them: a mighty army of six hundred chosen chariots picked from the elite Egyptian force, led by Pharaoh himself. They were chasing after Yisroel, a weak nation that had suffered terribly over the years.

But the Egyptians' might did not help them. They and their horses sunk in the Yam Suf, as witnessed by millions of bnei Yisroel. To the generation that saw the krias Yam Suf and the sinking of Pharaoh's army, the Torah declares: "You saw what I did to Egypt" (Shemos 19:4). You were not told a story that happened thousands of years ago. You are being reminded of what you yourselves saw. You passed through the ocean on dry land. You saw Pharaoh's army drown in the ocean. You passed through Yam Suf as it split in twelve parts and with your own hands picked fruits to eat. You saw it!

The Torah continues: "And I will carry you on the wings of eagles and bring you to Me" (Ibid.). Rashi explains, "All of you, in one day. Yisroel were scattered all over the land of Goshen and in a short time, from the moment they decided to travel and leave, they all were gathered at Raamses." From Raamses, Yisroel traveled to Succos — "And bnei Yisroel travelled from Raamses to Succos" (Shemos 12:37). Rashi (Ibid.) explains that Succos was a hundred and twenty mil away, yet bnei Yisroel came there in a short time, as is written, `And I will carry you on the wings of eagles.'" Millions of people saw and experienced being carried "on the wings of eagles"; heavenly mal'ochim brought them in a short time over vast distances. For those millions the Torah declares: "You saw!"

All of bnei Yisroel heard this, and were silent and accepted what the Torah said: "You saw." Is there a greater proof of the truth of these miracles? If, chas vesholom, what was told about yetzias Mitzrayim and krias Yam Suf was not true, why did everyone there not stand up and scream out: "A lie! What? We saw something? Where did we see something?"

That did not happen. Klal Yisroel did not deny anything. They heard, were silent, and corroborated by their silence everything written in the Torah. There is no further need of proof.

Not only were those who lived during that generation loyal witnesses to krias Yam Suf, but also we, their offspring, are considered as having "seen" the miracle. We have a Torah, the Torah that has been passed down through the generations, the same Torah possessed by the generation that wandered in the Sinai Desert, without any additions or subtractions, chas vesholom. Not even one kutzo shel yod was omitted from the Torah that our fathers received. If one letter were either missing or added, the Sefer Torah would be posul.

This Torah that we have inherited from our fathers and forefathers, from those millions of people who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received it, tells us that two months after bnei Yisroel left Egypt they came to Mount Sinai and received the Torah. It is absolutely clear that this Torah was passed down to us through Moshe Rabbenu, who received it from Hashem. It was not, chas vesholom, a history book written by some historian or an author depending on coincidental happenings and baseless assumptions.

What we have is a Toras Emes. It clearly testifies before us that those millions of people who received it passed through the Yam Suf walking on dry land. Not one of them denied that this happened. We ourselves are witnesses, and unquestionably validate the truth of krias Yam Suf.

Can this be called emunah? We have absolute proof of what happened! We can actually see it!

Not only Am Yisroel witnessed krias Yam Suf, but all the nations of the world testify about it. The Midrash teaches us that when the ocean split all bodies of water in the world split too. Water in every container, water in buckets, water in cups — all split. The whole world saw that. Millions of people witnessed it. "The people shall hear and be afraid, trembling shall take hold of the inhabitants of Peleshes. Then the chiefs of Edom shall be amazed, the mighty men of Moav, trembling shall take hold upon them, all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away" (Shemos 15:14- 15). They were all silent and did not deny this event. Is there any possibility of denying this truth? Here is real proof!

Everyone saw and understood that there is a Creator of the World. There is a power that is Master over this great edifice. When He wishes, there will be an ocean, and when He wishes the ocean will cease and turn into dry land. He is the Creator, the ruler, and everything is done according to what He wishes.

Likewise we are witnesses for the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We are witnesses that the Torah is from heaven. The Torah was passed down to us, from generation to generation, all the way back to Moshe Rabbenu. The Torah writes that HaKodosh Boruch Hu Himself descended on Mt. Sinai and the noise of the shofar increased in volume. "Moshe would speak and Elokim answered him by a voice" (Shemos 19:19).

The Jewish Nation stands in its multitudes at the foot of Mt. Sinai, millions hear the voice of the living Elokim talking from within the fire. Out of sheer fear they request, "You speak to us and we will hear, and let Elokim not speak to us lest we die" (Ibid., 20:15). Everyone heard, everyone trembled and shook — "All people in the camp trembled" (Ibid., 19:16).

Moshe afterwards descends from the mountain with the sefer Torah, and he teaches the nation about the revelation on Mt. Sinai. The nation accepts silently what Moshe teaches them. Not one person out of the millions stands up and denies what is written. Not one person cries out: "Where did that happen? Did we see Hashem descend from Heaven?" No! No one calls out. Everyone verifies what everyone saw, and together they accept this Torah, and bequeath to their children all that is written in it.

Since we have reliable and clear testimony for all the miracles and wonders that Hashem did for our fathers when they left Egypt, we are obliged to understand that there is a Creator of the World. There is a Creator Who changes what He wishes, Who created everything and is Lord over everything. We must, then, run our lives according to the trustworthy principles that are the basis of our faith.

End of Part I

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