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(5741) Rashi (Ex 19:2) "And they camped": "as one person with one heart" and the difference with Rashi (Beshalach 14:10)  


1. On the verse (Ex. 19:2): “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain”

Rashi cites the words: “and Yisroel encamped there” (ויחן שם ישראל) and explains:

“As one man with one heart, but all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife”.

Learning this plainly, the preciseness and explanation of Rashi is like the commentary of the Mechilta who states:

“Encamped there” ("ויחן"), (is) in the singular form, whereas in all the other places it states “Yachanu/they encamped (״ויחנו״) in the plural form.

Therefore Rashi explains that the encampment then was “as one man with one heart, but all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife” (which is why it states everywhere “Yachanu” in the plural form).

However, according to this one must understand:

Since the entire precision of Rashi’s commentary is from the word “VaYichan” (in the singular form), Rashi should have cited as the heading, only the word “VaYichan”.

Why did Rashi also cite in the heading the words: “Yisroel encamped there” (ויחן שם ישראל)?

One could say that the reason that Rashi also cites the word “there (שם)” is because he holds that:

even (the statement): “all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife” is learned, not just as the Mechilta learns - that it is because it states (in those other places): “Yachanu” ,in the plural form,

but rather

from the verse itself.  For since it states in the verse: “encamped there (״ויחן שם״)“ – it must mean that only “there”, was the encampment as one – “VaYichan”  - in the singular form (“as one man with one heart”), but not by the “all the other encampments”.

And on the contrary – only from ‘there’ (in this verse) do we know that the other encampments were with complaints and with strife – namely from the extra word “there (שם)”.

However, it is possible that when it states: “Yachanu” – that it is plain (literal) - that it speaks of certain (different) people, Shvatim etc. – however, not all of them had complaints and strife, with each another.

The question however remains:

Why did Rashi also cite in the heading the (concluding) word: “Yisroel” (ויחן שם ישראל)?

For on the contrary:

Since Rashi cites in the heading the word: “Yisroel”, it becomes very hard to explain his commentary.

For since it states the word “Yisroel” – which implies all Yidden as one group (nation) – therefore the word “VaYichan” (in the singular) fits. Why, therefore, does Rashi have to expressly state that it means “as one man with one heart”?

2. Seemingly we could say that Rashi‘s necessity is not (so much) from the word “VaYichan”, in itself, but from the change (of constructs) in the verse itself:

  • For, in the same verse, it starts with: “they encamped (ויחנו) (in the desert)” – (in the plural).
  • Yet immediately afterwards it states “VaYichan”  “encamped there” ("ויחן"), in the singular form.

Therefore since, in the very same verse, the Torah changes from “Yachanu” in the plural to “VaYichan” in the singular – it proves that (just) when they were “opposite the mountain” – did they become “as one man with one heart”.

One must however understand:

We find in Torah, many places where, in the same verse, and in the same context, regarding Am Yisroel – both constructs are used -  the plural and the singular:

For example in our Parsha (Ex. 20:15):

“And the people saw (singular) and trembled (plural); so they stood (plural) from afar” (״וירא העם וינועו ויעמדו מרחוק״)

And also in the previous Parsha (Ex. 14:31)

“Yisroel saw (singular) the great hand . . The people feared (plural) . . and believed (plural).(וירא ישראל את היד הגדולה גו׳ וייראו העם גו׳ ויאמינו גו׳).

3. One must also understand:

The source for Rashi, simply, is from the Mechilta. However the wording in the Mechilta is:

"Everywhere where it is written: 'They traveled... they encamped' (in the plural) - 'they traveled' with strife and 'they encamped' with strife. Here, however, they were (all) equally of one heart – therefore it says 'and Yisroel encamped,' (in the singular) opposite the mountain”.

Among the differences between Rashi and the Mechilta are:

1.       In the Mechilta it states: “Here, however, they were (all) equally of one heart”. Whereas in Rashi it states: “as one man with one heart”.

2.       In the Mechilta it states: “'they traveled' . .and 'they encamped' with strife.”. Whereas Rashi states Two phrases: “complaints and with strife”.

3.       In the Mechilta it concludes: “therefore it says 'and Yisroel encamped, opposite the mountain '. Whereas Rashi states: “and Yisroel encamped there” but omits “opposite the mountain”.

4. One must also understand:

The same content of Rashi‘s commentary here, is found, with minor changes, in his commentary on the previous Parsha:

On the verse (Ex. 14:10) “and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them

Rashi cites the heading: “advancing after them” (נֹסֵעַ אחריהם) (in the singular) and explains:

“With one heart, like one man”.

And there Rashi (also) does not cite the word “Egyptians (were advancing after them)” -

whereas in his commentary here he does cite the word “Yisroel”.

The simple reason, as aforementioned, is that it (the word ‘Egyptians’) contradicts the preciseness of the word “advancing” (נֹסֵעַ) which is singular, since it refers to the nation is as one entity. (note:  For then the commentary would be redundant)

However, the question arises there:

1.       The verse states “Egyptians (were advancing after them)” – therefore this contradicts the precision of Rashi - “With one heart, like one man”.

2.       Why does Rashi (also) cite in the heading the words “after them” (נֹסֵעַ אחריהם)?

3.       In his commentary here in our Parsha the order is “as one man with one heart” where the order is “With one heart, like one man”.

5. The explanation in all this is:

The reason the plural or singular context is used interchangeably for a group or an entire nation, is, reasonably and simply, dependent upon if it is speaking of an act (פעולה) that is in a manner of uniformity and oneness.

In this there are two possibilities:

  • When the group performs an act with sameness and oneness – then they call all be referred to as one individual (in the singular) – since they all performing the same and singular task.
  • However when the act is being performed in many ways, through different people of the group (nation) – then they are referred to in the plural. There is nothing in the act that unites them as one entity.

However, when it is speaking of a feeling – the thoughts etc. (מחשבת שכל וכיו״ב) of a group – for in this, (the maxim is that) ‘No person’s thoughts (or feelings) are the same’ - it is always manifested in many ways – then they are referred to in the plural.

Therefore there is no puzzlement that, regarding a group of a people and nation, the verse uses both constructs – both the singular and the plural, and sometimes both in the same verse – because this is dependent on the context.

We see this is the aforementioned verse (Ex. 14:31)

“Yisroel saw (singular) the great hand . . The people feared (plural) . . and believed (plural).(וירא ישראל את היד הגדולה גו׳ וייראו העם גו׳ ויאמינו גו׳).

  • “Saw (singular)” refers, plainly, to the actual seeing of the Yidden (their seeing what G-d had performed in Egypt). They all saw this equally, (Therefore “Saw” is in the singular)
  • However regarding their “fear” of G-d and their “belief in G-d” - there certainly were many levels in this. Therefore it states they “feared” and “believed”, in the plural – for it was a different manifestation for each one.

The same applies to the verse in our Parsha (Ex. 20:15):

“And the people saw (singular) and trembled (plural); so they stood (plural) from afar” (״וירא העם וינועו ויעמדו מרחוק״)

  • In the aspect of “Saw”- the actual seeing - they were all equal. It was one sight (they were united), as aforementioned.
  • However, regarding the “trembled“ and the “stood from afar” which is connected to their emotion and their nerves (אויפטרייסלונג) etc., the plural form is fitting because of the many and different manifestations between them.

6. In the verse (Ex. 14:10)

“Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them (נוסע אחריהם). (in the singular) They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to the L-rd.”

There, the emphasis is not on the “advancing” – the act of their advancing, but rather the “after them” –the purpose of their advancing which was their pursuit of them - which is connected to Pharaoh and his servants’ change of heart (toward the people), their evilness and evil intentions.

And in this, not all the Egyptians were the same – there were certainly divisions:

  • Pharaoh
  • The necromancers of Egypt (חַרְטֻמֵּי מִצְרַיִם)
  • Those who “feared the word of G-d”
  • Those who did not “fear the word of G-d”
  • And especially, those that begged Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt

Therefore, shouldn’t it have said “advancing after them” (״נוסעים״) in the plural?

Therefore Rashi explains and innovates that it was “with one heart as one man”:

For, on the contrary, the reason that it states “advancing after them (נוסע אחריהם), in the singular, is because their pursuit was “after them” – in hunting (נאכיאגן) the Israelites. And in the pursuit of the Israelites, the Egyptians were

(not as one might think, that, in this aspect, there were divisions because of, and similar to the aforementioned factions - but rather they all were)

“of one heart” – with one heart that was full of hatred towards the Israelites. And this caused them to become “as one man”. (Therefore the order is “with one heart - as one man”).

7. The same applies to our Parsha:

In the examination of the verse (Ex. 19:2) “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain”:

Regarding the actual encampment (in the literal sense) of the Israelites, there, in that place, the verse (already) told us that “They camped (ויחנו) in the desert”.

Therefore, it must be that when the verse adds “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain” – it must be because it is referring to their encamping (ויחנו)- i.e. the manner of their encamping and preparation to receiving the Torah, which they needed to receive there.

The question arises:

The personal preparation and the desire and preparation for Matan Torah was, according to for each Yid’s spiritual level and situation. It was different for each Yid,

starting with Moshe, Aharon and the Seventy Elders; and other various levels, so much so, that it even included the (extreme opposite) level of Yidden that questioned (even after the miracle of the Splitting of the Red Sea) “Is G-d among us” etc.

Accordingly, it should also have stated “and Yisroel encamped (there opposite the mountain)” - (ויחנו) in the plural?

Therefore Rashi comes to forewarn us, by citing in the heading: “and Israel encamped there” (״ויחן שם ישראל״),

(omitting the words: “opposite the mountain”)

to tell us that the verse means - that as (a Jew) - “Yisroel” – all the Yidden were “as one man” – with a unity (איחוד) from one to the other.

In other words, (the unity was) not just because they were standing

(according to their personal level and preparation and desire)

opposite the mountain” to receive the Torah.

And this unity caused that they became “as one heart” – all with the same will in their heart to receive the Torah.

8. This is also the change and difference between:

  • “with one heart as one man” of the Egyptians - to that of
  • “as one man with one heart” of the Yidden

By the Egyptians - their becoming “as one man” was a result of their being “with one heart” – namely in their pursuit of the Israelites, advancing after them (נוסע אחריהם). But, they themselves, as “Egyptians”, were not all united (ווי איינס). Therefore Rashi just cites, in the heading, the words: “advancing after them (נוסע אחריהם) and not the previous word “the Egyptians were advancing after them)”.

However, in our Parsha, the Achdus (unity) of the Yidden (“as one man”) was from the very reason itself - that they were Jews – “as one man”. Therefore Rashi cites in the heading and emphasizes that “and Yisroel encamped there” – that the Achdus brought out (ארויפגערופן) the “with one heart” - to receive the Torah.

According to the Mechilta, however, their unity was expressed in that which “they were (all) equally of one heart (״הושוו (כולם) לב אחד״) – all Yidden were equal and had one heart and desire to receive the Torah. Therefore the Mechilta concludes “Therefore it says 'and Yisroel encamped, opposite the mountain”.

9. According to the above - that according to Rashi there are two things:

  • “as one man” – the unity between the Yidden.
  • “with one heart” - the singular desire to receive the Torah.

one can also understand the repetition in the continuation of Rashi ‘s commentary:

“but all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife”.

Since the verse emphasized that “and Israel encamped there” - it is understood that, this unity was only because they were “there” (״שם״) – at Mount Sinai.

However, “all the other encampments were with complaints and with strife” – all the other encampments entailed the opposite of Unity. And this was expressed in two forms:

  • “Contention” (מחלוקת) among themselves – the opposite of “as one man”
  • Strife (״תרעומות״) toward G-d – the opposite of “with one heart” (to receive the Torah)

10. From the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi‘s commentary (Yayina shel Torah):

The world, as it is of its own accord, is considered a public domain (רשות הרבים) in which the relation and connection of one thing to the other, does not stand out.

And this is expressed in mankind (מין המדבר) individually and particularly:

G-d created mankind in a manner where “one of them (person) is not similar to his fellow” and ‘No person’s thoughts are the same’. And this has an effect also on the deeds of the person, which are performed according to the intellect and feelings of the person. For the deeds of one person are not similar - and even may be antithetical (קעגנזאץ) to the deeds of the second person.

The aspect of unity in the world is connected with the revelation (גילוי) from the One Creator – HaShem Echad – who is higher than the world.

With this, one can explain the difference between the Mechilta and Rashi:

The revelation of HaShem Echad in the world is accomplished through two things which are higher than the world:

  • Torah and
  • Yisroel

because of which, the world was created.

According to the Mechilta, the revelation of (Matan) Torah, which is higher than the world, had an effect on the Yidden much earlier – at the time of the Eve of Matan Torah (ערב מ״ת). For already then, when they came to the Sinai desert – they were “were (all) equally of one heart– to receive the Torah.

However, according to Rashi, (who explains) the simple understanding of the verse – since this was, in reality, the time before Matan Torah – one could not say that the revelation that would come in the future, had already, previously, effected the unity. Therefore, (he explains that) the unity, came from the Yidden themselves – from the level of Yechidah of the Jewish soul, which is higher than reason and intellect (for thoughts are not equal). It comes from the essence of Judaism (נקודת היהדות) that resides mainly (not in the head, but) in the heart.

                (For this was revealed in the Yidden when they went out of Egypt).

And this evoked and effected that “Yisroel encamped there - as one man”.

And this itself, that they stood “as one man”, due to the revelation of the essence of Judaism, awakened within them the desire and longing for receiving the Torah – “with one heart".

11. Even though the true unity comes from the essence of Judaism - Yechidah of the soul, which is found only in Yidden – nevertheless, since “G-d created forces (of unholiness) that oppose (holiness)” (״את זה לעומת זה עשה האלקים״), (note: in order to maintain free-choice) therefore, there is a glimmer of the aspect of unity also by non-Jews (since Klipah wants to be compared to holiness – like the example of a monkey that mimics man)

Therefore it is understood why the Egyptians’ had the aspect of “with one heart” (similar to that of Bnei Yisroel) which cause “as one man”.

The difference, however, is, as has been mentioned above:

Non-Jews do not possess the manner of true unity, of their own accord (“as one man”) – it is just, no more than a result and outcome of their hatred “with one heart”. This is not so by Jews – whose ‘essence of Judaism’ is their true being. Therefore a complete unity is effected through it - “as one man”.

12. Even though the true unity, which the Yidden possess, due to the level of Yechidah, is not applicable to non-Jews – nevertheless, since Matan Torah accomplished, as is known, a nullification of the decree that separated the “Supernal (״עליונים״)” with the “Lower (״תחתונים״)” (between G-dliness and creation) – this also had an effect on Bnei Noach, that they also be able to discern the G-dly power which is enclothed within them –

And through discerning this G-dly power (whose aspect is unity) they also are able to accomplish a certain aspect of unity – similar to the unity of Yidden.

(But not completely, since discerning the level of G-dliness, which is completely higher than the worlds, is not applicable to them (as it is with Yidden). For true unity comes, specifically, through this level in G-dliness – “as one man”).

This aspect – that after Matan Torah – non-Jews also have a relation to that level of G-dliness etc. – which is above intellect (and division (מהתחלקות)) - is manifested also in Halacha – that the observance of the Seven Noachide Commandments must be

   – not “because of an intellectual conclusion” (and not even because of G-d’s command to Adam HaRishon and Noach) but rather -

“because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moshe, our teacher, that Noach's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.”

And since “each person is obligated to say ‘the world was created for me’”

– that the entire world (from the mineral until mankind) was created for his sake, and he must, therefore, make the world into a Private Domain for G-d’s unity” (״רשות היחיד ליחודו ית׳״) -

Therefore, every Jew must endeavor, with all his wherewithal, to influence also Bnei Noach that they observe their Seven Commandments – and that they observe them - “because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah”.

mSichas Shabbat Parshat Beshalach (Tu B’Shvat)

Shabbat Parshat Yisro 5740 

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