B’shalach – 5774


Written for Shabbat Parshat B’shalach, י’ בשבת תשע”ד:

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shira, which gets its name from the well-known Song by the Sea, אז ישיר (Az Yashir), sung by Bnei Yisrael when they crossed the Yam Suf. As described in Sotah 30:, the song was sung responsively, with Moshe as the leader and the entire nation responding. However, this was no ordinary song of praise sung by a grateful nation, for it to gain such recognition in the text it would have to be more than that. The entire nation reached a level of prophecy higher than most prophets during this song. Therefore, there are much deeper, prophetic meanings in every word uttered.

Towards the end of the Song comes the following line, “Until Your people passes through, Hashem – until this people You have acquired passes through” (15:16). Why does the song repeat itself? If this was said in prophecy, then even something as seemingly minor as repetition has meaning. The Talmud in B’rachot 4. answers this question. It says there: “‘Until Your people passes through, Hashem’ – This is the first coming, ‘Until this people You have acquired passes through’ – This is the second coming. From here the sages say: ‘It was fitting for Yisrael that a miracle would be performed for them in the days of Ezra in the way that was done for them in the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun, but the sin caused (the absence of a miracle)’”.

During the first conquest of Eretz Yisrael, under the leadership of Yehoshua, the Yarden river was split for us, the sun stood still in the sky for us, and we fought numerous battles without losing a single man (except at Ai, when there was a sin involved). According to our sages, we would have been deserving of such miracles during Ezra’s time as well, when we came to build the Second Beit HaMikdash. Yet we didn’t, because of our sin. What sin was it that caused us to lose such miracles?

When permission was granted to us to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, Ezra went all over the Diaspora to call Jews back to our homeland, Eretz Yisrael. However, the vast majority of them refused to come, saying that they were comfortable where they were, so why should they leave? That was the sin that caused us to lose the possibility of such incredible miracles on our second coming as we had gotten with our first.

This reason sounds all too familiar to me. Most Jews who stay in the Diaspora do so because they are more “comfortable” where they are, for any of a myriad of reasons. They are continuing in the same sin that our ancestors did over 2000 years ago by refusing to return to our homeland, where we belong. During Ezra’s time, this sin caused us to lose the possibility of great miracles. Undoubtedly during our time as well we are missing out on Divine Intervention, thus all of us suffer for the sins of our people. In 2000 years, one would hope that we would learn to correct our mistakes, but alas it seems to take us longer than that. Let’s pray that we learn our lesson soon, so that we can deserve the great miracles promised us for the coming of the Mashiach. Shabbat Shalom.

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