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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Beshalach: Every Ounce Counts

ויהי בשלח פרעה את העם וגו'
And it was, when Pharoh sent out the nation

“Beshalach Pharaoh” — Pharaoh sent?? Is this the right phrase to describe a vanquished tyrant compelled to release a nation amid the most intense and coercive campaign in world history, as if he had any say in the matter?

It is interesting to note that the Torah uses the expression that Pharoh ‘sent’ the nation out. We might have said, When the Jewish People ‘left’ or ‘escaped’. We would hardly think that Pharoh had any input here at all. On the contrary, Pharoh was quite the forced one here, and seemingly, the people marched out, openly, against the will of Pharoh and the Egyptians.

The Medrash (mechilta and tanchuma here) picks up on this, and states, “the word ‘sent’ connotes nothing but escorted; Pharoh actually escorted the Jewish People out, according them much honor, as one would escort his guests, or his teacher, on their way. Not only this, but Pharoh actually was rewarded for this; continues the medrash- “the same mouth that said “I will not let them go” now says “I will send you and your children out”. And what reward did Pharoh receive for this? That in the future, even an Egyptian can convert, and be accepted into the K’hal, i.e. be permitted to marry, after a mere three generations. 

Rav Elya Lopian zt”l is astounded! If we take a step back and analyze all that transpired here, we simply need to ask- didn’t Pharoh arrogantly refuse at first, to listen and send out the Jews? Wasn’t his country basically demolished and smashed to smithereens with the ten plagues? There was hardly anything left, to the point that even Pharoh’s advisors already were saying that the cause was lost, and we need to let them go. Is Pharoh really deserving of any reward to finally acknowledge Hashem and allow them to leave? And not only that, the reward that Pharoh did receive is the eternal reward of his descendants being allowed to join the Jewish People and fully embraced? What did Pharoh do that was so great?

Explains Rav Elya, that actually, if we put things in perspective, this is very easy to understand. As we all know, the entire purpose of the creation of the world was so that we can strive, improve, and serve Hashem. We were all created with a spiritual soul, that has the capability of lifting us up, as well as a physical body that has the ability to drag us down. And our sole reason for existence is to wage this battle, and emerge with our souls on top. 

This being the case, every single victory, however small it may seem, is in itself a reason for the existence of the world; and even the wicked Pharoh, who was certainly guilty for all that he had done,  could have at this point just tossed in the towel and allowed them to leave; the fact that he finally realized his mistake and took the effort to escort them out honorably, is a historical act that had eternal significance. 

We see this idea again with the story of the sotah; a woman is suspected of adultery, and is subjected to all sorts of humiliation; if indeed, at the end she is proven innocent, the Torah promises her the blessing of meriting beautiful healthy children. Now, after all, even if she didn’t actually commit the adulterous act, she did seclude herself with a strange man! She did cast suspicion on herself and create these allegations; why does she deserve any reward at all? She should consider herself lucky that she escaped with her life! Again, we see, that even within an inappropriate situation, we can do something right, and Hashem will take note and we will be rewarded. She was punished for what she did, but we acknowledge that she did something right as well.

We see from all of this the power of a good deed! Our successes are recognized even when not perfect! May we all merit to have as much success as possible, and take encouragement that every ounce counts.

Have a wonderful Shabbos

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