Vol 21.11 - Beshalach 1                 Spanish French Audio  Video

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"Moses led Israel away" - "He led them away against their will" (Ex. 15:22 c.f.Rashi)
According to Halacha and in Avodah. (5741)


The Midrash comments on the verse “Moshe led the Jewish people away from the Red Sea,” by noting that Moshe had to forcefully lead them away. This was because the Jews were so busy with the “spoils of the sea” — spoils even greater than those they took with them when they left Egypt — that they didn’t want to leave.

At the time of the crossing of the Red Sea, G-d revealed Himself to the Jews in “all His glory,” leading the nation to sing G-d’s praises. Indeed, the revelation was so great that they sang: “This is my G-d” — “They pointed at Him with their finger.”

After all this, how was it possible to be so absorbed with the “spoils of the sea”; what possible value could gold and silver have in comparison to the revelation of G-dliness at the crossing?

Their reluctance to leave the “spoils of the sea” did not stem from greed, but was because they believed G-d wanted them to gather as much booty as possible.

What led the Jews to this conclusion?

At the time of the Exodus, Jews were commanded to obtain “vessels of silver and gold” from the Egyptians. The purpose was not only to fulfill G-d’s promise that they would leave Egypt “with great wealth,” but also to “drain Egypt of its wealth.”

Thus, when the Jews saw after the crossing that the Egyptians still possessed gold and silver, they felt duty bound by the command to “drain Egypt.”

However, since Moshe ordered the Jewish people to leave — in order to hasten their arrival at Sinai to receive the Torah — they should have understood that this was now G-d’s desire. So, the original question remains: why did Moshe have to force them?

In truth, having to be forced to leave didn’t mean they weren’t ready to obey Moshe; they understood quite well that his command was a proper one, and were quite ready to follow his orders.

Nevertheless, the Jews were not convinced intellectually that they should leave, since, in their mind, the command to “drain Egypt” was still in force. They were thus “compelled” to follow orders.

This will be better understood by considering the inner meaning of the phrase “to drain Egypt of its wealth,”for what was so important about removing the physical wealth of Egypt?

The “great wealth” of Egypt refers to the sparks of holiness — “the great spiritual wealth” — found within the Egyptian silver and gold. By transferring the jewelry to Jewish ownership, these sparks were elevated from Egyptian impurity to Jewish holiness.

Since the service of purifying and elevating the sparks of holiness found within the physical is a vital aspect of Divine service, so much so that it fulfills the purpose of creation — providing a dwelling place for G-d in this world — it was impossible to forego this “great wealth.”

The same was true, of course, regarding the “spoils of the sea.” Knowing as they did the importance of elevating the spiritual sparks found within the spoils, the Jews gathered the wealth with great enthusiasm.

This, then, is why Moshe had to forcefully lead them away from the sea: Not, Heaven forbid, that the Jews did not want to obey Moshe’s order — which was, after all, G-d’s command — with joy and delight.

Because the Jewish people were wholly immersed in purifying and elevating the sparks of holiness, tearing themselves away from this mode of service and changing spiritual “gears” was difficult, and so they had to be “compelled.”


The Torah portion of Beshalach contains the verse "And Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea." Notes Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, "He brought them against their will." Moses had to actually force the Children of Israel to leave the shores of the Red Sea and continue their journey on to Mount Sinai.
The Jewish people did not want to leave because they were busy collecting the gold and silver that had washed up on shore. The Egyptians had adorned their horses with silver and gold ornaments and precious gems. When they drowned, these ornaments were found by the Jews and gathered up.

The Jews were totally engrossed in collecting their spoils and did not want to move on. Even when Moses told them to go they refused to listen. In the end, Moses had to force them to depart.

The behavior of the Jewish people seems surprising and difficult to understand. When the Jews left Egypt, they were already in possession of great wealth. The Talmud relates that each and every Jew departed with 90 donkeys laden with gold and silver!

How is it possible that after experiencing the Divine revelation and miracles at the Sea they could have been interested in anything as mundane as gold and silver? But most importantly, the Jewish people knew that the sole purpose of their exodus from Egypt was the giving of Torah. How could they have been willing to delay it for the sake of personal gain?

To explain:

The Jews' behavior was not motivated by a desire for wealth, but by a burning desire to fulfill G-d's command.

Before leaving Egypt the Jewish people had been commanded to deplete the riches of Egypt, as it states, "And each man shall ask of his neighbor...vessels of silver and vessels of gold...and you shall plunder Egypt." G-d had commanded them to empty Egypt of its wealth. The Jews obeyed G-d and took with them vast quantities of silver and gold.

After the splitting of the Red Sea, however, they saw that there was still much to be obtained. They realized that they had not completely "emptied" Egypt. So eager were they to fulfill G-d's command to perfection that they began to collect the silver and gold that washed up on shore, without regard for anything else.

It was precisely because they had witnessed the revelation of G-d at the splitting of the Red Sea that the Jews wished to fulfill G-d's will in a perfect manner. Their desire to do so was so great that Moses had to force them to stop. The Jewish people didn't want the Egyptians' gold and silver for themselves; their sole intent was to fulfill G-d's command to the best of their ability.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 21 From http://www.lchaimweekly.org/lchaim/5759/554.htm




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