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Parshas Beshalach

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Beshalach

Oct 21, 2009

 

The Torah says in Parshas Beshalach, (15,15) "Az nivhalu alufei Edom Eilei Moav yochazeimo raad." - The Edomites were filled with formless confusion, the Moabites were gripped with tremors. Rashi questions the reason for their fear. The B’nei Yisroel were on the path to conquering the Land of Israel. The Moabites and Edomites were not in danger of being taken over. Rashi supplies a different reason for their fear. They were in pain due to the "kavod" - honor, that the B’nei Yisroel were blessed with.

 

   It would seem strange that honor afforded another nation would be a source of pain, jealousy perhaps, but why pain? In addition, how do the words of Rashi coincide with those of the posuk, which clearly states that they were in a state of fear and confusion?

 

   Since time immemorial, rivalries abounded. The snake and Adam HaRishon, Kayin and Hevel, Avrohom and Nimrod, Yitzchok and Yishmael, Yaakov and Eisav. The world was created for Adam. It was tailor made for him to empower him to actualize his destiny as one who reveals G-d's presence within our lowly world. The snake was created to frustrate this goal. His task is to endeavor to make all efforts necessary to forge the world in his own image, that of the traitorous snake. For this reason he attempted to remove Chava from under her husband’s influence. He was partially successful.

 

   Kayin and Hevel offered sacrifices to Hashem. Upon witnessing Hashem's acceptance of Hevel's korban, Kayin felt his very existence at risk. The closeness to Hashem afforded Hevel, would be denied Kayin. Hevel would be the continuity of Adam Harishon within this world. Kayin would be irrelevant. It was this that drove him to murder his brother.

 

   Throughout the generations this rivalry continues in different forms. Edom and Moav were trembling with fear, they were in great pain. Why? Because of the honor of Yisroel. Hashem revealed to the entire world through the public display of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Matan Torah that the Jewish nation was his first born son. He elevated them up to a level of royalty. All the natural forces of the world were suspended in their honor.

 

   This is a much greater threat to the nations than mere warfare. Edom and Moav, both having a connection to the Avos, felt this keenly. Their entire essence was being shown to be devoid of meaning and purpose. The world would be fashioned after the form of Klal Yisroel. Edom is considered to be formless. Trembling comes from a fear of personal extinction.

 

   This sheds light on a gemora in Meseches Horayus. Balak attempted to destroy the Jewish nation through the wiles of Bilaam. He offered forty two sacrifices to Hashem in order for his plan to succeed. By virtue of these sacrifices he was blessed with a descendant, Ruth. The Gemora derives from this, "Mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma" - By virtue of his korbanos which were offered "shelo lishem shamayim" - not for the sake of heaven, he is rewarded with issue who dedicated her life for the sake of Heaven.

 

   This is indeed difficult to comprehend. It would be understandable if someone, not being on the highest level of altruism, performs a mitzva to the best of his ability. Even though it was not done totally for the sake of Heaven, he is deserving of merit. But what merit can be accrued by someone who offers sacrifices precisely for the purpose of wiping out the Jewish nation? Why should it be rewarded with the birth of such a righteous woman?

 

  We must understand that Balak was not trying to "bribe" Hashem. Hashem has no need of forty two animals. Balak was bringing korbanos in order to forge a connection, a bond with Hashem. He brought korbanos and the Bnei Yisroel didn't. The B’nei Yisroel were in real danger due to this shortcoming. Balak was attempting to usurp the B’nei Yisroel's position in the world. The world should henceforth exist to fulfill his unique destiny in the world. He capitalized on the imperfections of the Jewish people.

 

   It was service of Hashem, but it was a mixture of "lishem shamayim" and "shelo lishem shamayim", for behind all his calculations was his own personal advancement.

 

   Ruth is the "mother of malchus" - majesty. She inherited from Moav the drive and ability to fashion the entire world under one "tzelem Elokim". But the "tzelem Elokim" would be entirely selfless, he would be Mashiach Ben Dovid.

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