- the Erev Rav
- the role of Jewish women at the Sea and with the manna
- the woman’s role in the future
The Essential Link between Desire and Emuna
“And Hashem took the nation around through the Wilderness, the Reed Sea, and Bnei Yisrael went up armed from the land of Egypt.” (13:18)
The Kli Yakar does not interpret “armed” as bearing physical weapons.
He notes that Jewish wars are not dependent on the strength and quantity of weapons. After all, he says, it doesn’t exactly demonstrate Hashem’s Glory if they march out armed to the teeth (as the word chamush [armed] implies five weapons per man), as opposed to marching out courageously unarmed and relying solely on Hashem.
Furthermore, he notes that at that point, the Jews could not have been skilled at using weapons because they’d been overwhelmed with performing slave labor.
So the Kli Yakar concludes that chamushim [armed] alludes to the Torah, which is called the Chumash because it contains 5 books. (In Hebrew, the number five is chamesh.) And because chamushim is synonymous with mezuyanim (armed), the number seven also means something (due to its root, zayin, the 7th letter of the Alef-Bet). And because Tehillim 119:164 states: "Seven times each day have I praised You," the Kli Yakar concludes that the Jewish nation’s true weapons are Torah and prayer.
Thus, the Kli Yakar states:
Immediately upon wanting to go to the Midbar (Wilderness/Desert)—and they didn’t say, "How can we go to the Midbar, an unsown land?"—they acquired emuna. And with this first acquisition, they were considered as if they were rooted in it [emuna]. Therefore, it says, "And they went up armed (chamushim)"—meaning that at that time, when they went up from the land of Egypt to the Midbar. And their process of acquiring emuna was finalized at the Reed Sea."
Well, in the above verses, the Torah uses the word Am, generally translated as "nation." But Am is also a metaphor for different groups of people and therefore contains different meanings. This post will discuss only two of those.
Meaning #1 (which explains why the very act of wanting and then actually going meant so much for their acquirement of emuna): The Jewish people were not yet any different than the other nations. Practically speaking, they did not even have their own weapons or any way to defend themselves as normal nations do.
Spiritually speaking, they had not yet officially received the Torah and they did not have their unique status as God’s Chosen People, accompanied by their distinctive potential for the perfection unique to those who uphold the Torah’s commandments.
So on all levels, they were totally defenseless.
Yet they still followed Hashem out of Egypt.
While the regular Jews would not return to Egypt under any circumstances, Hashem knew that the Erev Rav would run back the moment they faced battle. The circuitous route to the Promised Land was necessary solely because of them.
.…for Bnei Yisrael, this whole circuitous route was not necessary because Bnei Yisrael went up armed with weapons because they are believing sons, the sons of believers and people who trust in Hashem’s Salvation—and that is their weapon. And they would be trustworthy in war. But any decrease of trust (bitachon) comes from the Erev Rav….
The Erev Rav
Here, Pharaoh’s use of Am refers to the Erev Rav again.
Now, contrary to popular belief, Pharaoh did not chase down the nascent Jewish nation with a huge army. According to the Kli Yakar, he didn’t have time to get all the equipment together from all over Egypt. Furthermore, after the 10 Plagues, there were hardly any animals left with which to equip an army. So he just took what there was from his nation’s capital and set out after the Jewish people.
Why was Pharaoh so confident about recapturing millions of people with such a small army?
Because he relied on the innate faithlessness and cowardice of the Erev Rav.
He was sure that the Erev Rav, upon realizing they were trapped between a wasteland, a sea, and the Egyptian army, would say, "Hashem has turned away from Yisrael" and want to come back to Egypt.
The Kli Yakar quotes Pharaoh as saying,
"….it is certainly the will of the Erev Rav to return Egyptward, except that Yisrael doesn’t allow them to do so. And when they’ll see that we are coming to their aid (l’ezratam), they will rebel against Yisrael and will return to us…." ….And now, the heart of Pharaoh and his servants turned toward the Am [the Erev Rav] and his heart turned from hatred to love, as he said, "Now I need them because without a doubt, they will be a help for me when they see that Hashem has turned away from Yisrael."
Of course, this holds several parallels with the Jewish situation today:
- The fact that Pharaoh was so certain in his belief that Hashem had abandoned the Jewish people and that the Erev Rav would interpret the situation in that way, too.
- The fact that Pharaoh saw his pursuit, accompanied by the intent to re-enslave them, as "coming to their aid"—or, in the words of Ronald Reagan: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I’m from the government and I’m here to help!' "
- And see how Pharaoh hated the Erev Rav, but in their moment of seeming helplessness, he suddenly loved them.
And don’t we see those in our nation today who hanker after the "love" of our enemies?
Today, our enemies rely on the disloyalty of the Erev Rav—and with good reason.
Despite claims to the contrary, Israel does not actually need the world’s approval as much as everyone claims. Israel is a nuclear power and one of the prime innovators in a variety of necessary fields: the USB flash drive, micro-irrigation, e-reader technology, weapons technology, intelligence, Intel technology, medical clowns, surgical techniques, and much, much more. While some wring their hands about the Swedes (or anyone else) boycotting our products, it would be so easy—and much more distressing—for Israel to boycott them or anyone else in the world.
(Or at least sell to them at wildly inflated prices.)
And we have seen many times how alleged Jews—even externally frum ones—are willing to not only abandon the Jewish people, but in the words of the Kli Yakar, actually rebel against them—just as Pharaoh expected the Erev Rav to do against Bnei Yisrael. Heartbreakingly, there are many present-day examples of this.
At the time of this writing, the assault on Amona is the only the most recent example.
The Jewish Women at the Crossing of the Sea
This blog already discussed the Kli Yakar’s differentiation between the masculine shir (song) and the feminine shira (song) in relation to the suffering inherent in childbirth in Parshat V’zoht Habracha.
Basically, all the songs of This World are called shira because suffering continues even after people are done singing a joyous song.
But in our glorious future, we will all sing shir—because there will be no more suffering after the song is over.
Here, the Kli Yakar explains that not only do women suffer a lot from childbirth—while men don’t—but that a woman only inherits a tenth of her father’s estate "in This World"—while a man inherits it all.
In parallel, he writes, Yisrael currently "inherits" from Hashem the territory of only 10% of the nations in This World (7 out of a total of 70 nations).
Yet regarding our glorious future, Tehillim 33:3 says, “Sing to Him a new shir.”
Furthermore, the term used in this verse--yashir—actually means "will sing"—a hint at the Resurrection of the Dead, according to the Kli Yakar.
And then Yisrael will inherit everything, like men do now.
Because in the World to Come, everyone will be shed from the physical, and then males and females will be equal.
This word lisovev (its infinitive form) seems open to different interpretations.
Literally, it clearly means "to encircle" or "to go around."
Rashi interprets it as "will go after," as in "to return after the male to request of him that he’ll marry her" (and most of the commentators follow this interpretation), while at the same time acknowledging that Rebbi Yehudah Hadarshan interpreted it as "a woman will go around to become a man."
Rabbi Elihu Levine (who produced the fabulous English rendering of the Kli Yakar) translates it as "should surpass" while acknowledging Rashi's interpretation as "will court" (as in courting someone for marriage).
Yet when our Sages speak of how Hashem is misavev something, it generally means "orchestrates" or "arranges."
The commentaries interpret this verse in a wholly metaphorical manner, while the Kli Yakar (apparently following Rebbi Yehudah Hadarshan) takes it literally.
So I’m not going to translate because I’m not sure how.
(But I’m open to suggestions.)
Furthermore, the Kli Yakar notes that in another 20 verses, it says, "And Miriam replied to them/lahem," which is the masculine form, as opposed to lahen, the feminine form of "to them."
So let’s go there now.
“And Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand and all the women went out after her with drums and dancing. And Miriam replied to them (lahem), ‘Sing to Hashem for He is the Most Exalted'….” (15:20-21)
….because the prophecy started within Miriam and all the women went out following in her footsteps here because they all merited prophecy. And because the Divine Presence cannot rest on anyone unless they are in a state of joy, and because women experience the suffering of childbirth, so she [Miriam] took the drum in her hand and all the women went out after her with drums and dancing so that the holy spirit (ruach hakodesh) would come upon them amidst joy.
Reading his entire commentary on this event, the Kli Yakar automatically assumes the men’s attainment of this high level of prophecy, while he considers the fact that the women received the same level to be a wondrous thing.
And no, I don’t know why he differentiates in this way when he clearly acknowledges a woman’s ability to attain prophecy on her own, as is seen in his commentary regarding other prophetesses like Sara Imeinu, Rivka Imeinu, Miriam Haneviah, etc.
Later, the Kli Yakar explains that macholot (dancing) is related to the word for forgiveness (mechilah). He says that we also learn from Miriam’s dancing that anyone who "utters a song" after a miracle was done for him, "it is known that he [or she!] is forgiven for all their sins."
(This is great advice, by the way.)
Jewish Women and the Manna from Heaven
The Kli Yakar notes that in verse 16:31, it says, "the house of Yisrael (beit Yisrael) called it manna."
Why doesn’t it say "Bnei Yisrael [children of Israel]"?
….Because “beit Yisrael” means “the women”….the women were the most fond of the manna, so they named it….they wanted its existence because it made the righteousness of the women known….it told who sinned against whom—the husband against his wife or his wife against him.
If the manna was found by her father’s house then certainly, her husband sinned against her and vice versa, etc. Therefore, the women were fond of it because it made their righteousness known because the majority of women are wronged (menutzachim) by the men….
Well, that’s all I can fit in this week. There is a lot more to the Kli Yakar’s commentary on this week’s parsha (regarding physical and spiritual healing, etc.), but this will have to do for now.