Parshat Beshalach Dvar Torah
By Stephen Kirschenbaum
In this week’s Parsha, Klal Yisrael leaves Mitzrayim and G-d suddenly says to Moshe to turn back to Mitzrayim. Rashi explains that HKBH is doing this to test Pharaoh. Pharaoh is going to think Klal Yisrael is lost in the wilderness; this would re-inspire Pharaoh to chase after them, culminating in this final showdown by the Yam. Then, once and for all, they will see the Yad Hashem. As G-d tells Klal Yisrael to turn around, what happens? VaAmar Pharaoh LiBnei Yisrael, Nevuchim Heim BaAretz. Pharaoh said to Bnei Yisrael, the Jews are lost in the Midbar. Who’s Pharaoh talking to? Rashi says when Pharaoh hears that the Jews have turned back and are lost, Pharaoh said not to Bnei Yisrael but rather ‘Al Bnei Yisrael,’ he spoke about Bnei Yisrael. Pharaoh wasn’t talking to Klal Yisrael; they were gone.
The Targum Yonasan offers another explanation. Pharaoh was talking to Dasan and Aviram. VaAmar Pharaoh LiBnei Yisrael, Dasan and Aviram are the Bnei Yisrael referred to in the Pasuk. The two biggest troublemakers in Jewish history. There were Jews who had remained in Mitzrayim. While it’s unbelievable to comprehend after the 10 Makos and G-d marching Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim, but Dasan and Aviram, in their stubbornness, stayed. Later, Dasan and Aviram are the ones who complain to Moshe, why did you take us out, it would have been better for us in Mitzrayim? These two are constantly causing problems for Klal Yisrael.
How do we begin to understand who Dasan and Aviram were? The Gemara Berachos teaches that one’s name reveals a lot about a person; one’s name is a revelation of his/her inner essence. The Baal Shem Tov explains that the Neshama signifies the essence of a person; the body is just temporary, but the soul is eternal. The middle two letters of ‘Neshama’ is Shin-Mem, ‘Shem.’ A Shem, a name is the inner essence of the Neshama. The Gemara Sanhedrin 109 comments on the names Dasan and Aviram. Dasan was called Dasan because he rebelled against the Das, the values and theology of HKBH. The Ben Ish Chai comments that Nun represents Nefilah, a falling out. That’s why there’s no Nun in Ashrei. So, when it came to Das, religion, Dasan had a major Nefilah, thereby completing the letters of his name — Daled, Suf, Nun, Das-Nun. Always causing trouble and rebelling against G-d. Aviram was called Aviram because Aver Atzmo Mei’asos Teshuva. He hardened his heart to avoid doing Teshuva. Two stubborn Jews. So, what did Dasan and Aviram have that G-d loved them so much to keep them around, so much so that they later bragged to Moshe we’re just as good as you and claimed G-d split the sea just for us?
In truth, there was something very positive about Dasan and Aviram. They did have one merit that when a Jew has this, it trumps all the bad choices otherwise made. The Maharil Diskin Al HaTorah quotes the Medrash Rabbah stating that Dasan and Aviram were part of the group of Jews who were charged with ensuring the other Jews completed their tasks in Mitzrayim. Chazal tell us some of these ‘Shotrim’ suffered and took a beating for their fellow Jews. When their fellow brothers and sisters couldn’t finish the backbreaking work and were exhausted from the slavery, these Jewish officers were beaten on behalf of those other Jews. Dasan and Aviram were part of that group who made that personal sacrifice and spared their fellow Jews from the suffering. When a Jew doesn’t focus on himself, that’s something G-d loves and rewards. That’s what Klal Yisrael is about.
In Parshas Bo, the Chumash says Klal Yisarel borrowed silver and gold from the Mitzrim. They borrowed from his/her friend, ‘Raiaihu.’ Were the Mitzrim our friends? The Gemara Bava Kama says the word Raiaihu only applies to Jews. The GRA explains this means the Jews lent each other. Although he may have had nothing, each said to the other you take this. When G-d saw this Achdus of Klal Yisrael, He said now we’re ready to leave Mitzrayim. The GRA quotes the verse ‘Olam Chesed Yibaneh,’ when Jews could have focused on themselves but chose instead to focus on others. Says HKBH, this is the call of Klal Yisrael; being a part of Klal Yisrael means to sacrifice for fellow Jews.
It’s this lesson that superseded all the wrongdoing Dasan and Aviram committed. G-d looked at them and said, Raiaihu, you’re still part of Klal Yisrael. Therefore, the Medrash says the Shotrim, those who took a beating for their fellow Jews, were given unbelievable Zechusim; some were privileged to Ruach HaKodesh. Dasan and Aviram weren’t worthy of Ruach HaKodesh due to their other mistakes, however, says the Maharil Diskin, it was specifically because of this sacrifice for their fellow that enabled them to survive the Makkah of Choshech. According to Rashi, 4/5th of Klal Yisrael died during Choshech. How did Dasan and Aviram survive? Precisely because of this sacrifice they made for their fellow Jew — the ultimate Zechus.