Thursday, January 17, 2019

Va'ya'aminu BaHashem u'b'Moshe avdo -- emunah after the fact?

"Va'ya'aminu BaHashem u'b'Moshe avdo..." 

That's emunah?! To believe after you see a sea split in two and watch your enemies drown?

Who would not believe under those circumstances?

What does the pasuk mean? 

(See Alshich, Ohr haChaim, Kedushas Levi, Maor vaShemesh... but I still don't understand it.)

9 comments:

  1. "emunah after the fact?"

    faith in the future fact, with 15:13 in the past tense**

    -- though Moshe didn't command respect* in the middle of the pasuk [of 14:31, when only Hashem is feared], Rabbi Akiva does hear him command it for future Torah teachers at Devarim 10:20 (Pesachim 22b)

    *had Moshe done so, we'd have soon heard from the peanut gallery, 'get down off your high horse Moshe, before the sea comes up and POW!'

    **can 15:18 bear the same time-stamp, as in 'Hashem reigned forever and ever'? let's see.

    Hashem reigned for ever and ever.







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  2. Add Torah Ohr to your list of Peirushim that address this question from the Baal HaTanya...He compounds the question with the wonderful insight that believing specifically refers to things that we can't see (which is the verb used earlier in the same pasuk). Of course, he takes the Kabbalah/Chassidic/Avodah approach in answering this.

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  3. This may be fruitful to explore, but I don't really feel the kasheh. The verse does not say that our nation's faith was surprising or praiseworthy (compare e.g. Breisheet 15:10). Al derech ha-pshat, the point or chiddush of the verse may be that *finally* Israel believed - i.e. until now, despite all we'd witnessed, our faith was not (as) deep or complete.

    A stronger kasheh, al derech ha-pshat, is this, I think : if our nation truly believed in Hashem after this experience, then how and why are we asking "ha-yesh Hashem b'kirbeinu im ayin" just a few weeks later? (Shmot 17:7)

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  6. The Chofetz Chaim explains it as follows. He connects it with the immediate prior possuk, which ends:

    וַיַּ֤רְא יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵ֖ת עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיָּֽם:

    What does seeing the dead Mitzrim have to do with the next possuk about yiras shomayim and Emunah?

    The Chofetz Chaim notes Rashi (Shemot 14:5) quoting the Mechilta, who notes that the shirah uses three different descriptions for how the Mitzrim drowned:

    כמו אבן: ובמקום אחר )פסוק י( צללו כעופרת, ובמקום אחר )פסוק ז( יאכלמו כקש, הרשעים כקש הולכים ומטרפין עולין ויורדין, בינונים כאבן, והכשרים כעופרת, שנחו מיד:

    like a stone: Elsewhere (verse 10), it says, “they sank like lead.” Still elsewhere (verse 7), it says, “it devoured them like straw.” [The solution is that] the [most] wicked were [treated] like straw, constantly tossed, rising and falling; the average ones like stone; and the best like lead-[i.e.,] they sank immediately [and thus were spared suffering]

    The Chofetz Chaim explains that Bnai Yisrael were able to appreciate this calibrated punishment when the say the dead Mitzrim – they knew who had treated them well, or middling or badly, and thus who was rasha, beinoni or kasher. And they were able to see on their dead bodies who had suffered more or less.

    In other words, the Bnai Yisrael saw the Omek ha Din in concrete terms – even though there was one single Kriyas Yam Suf (and associated drowning of the Mitzrim), nevertheless Hashem punished each person exactly what he deserved.

    THAT is what engendered complete Emunah and yiras shomayim – there was a clear demonstration that Hashem has complete control over creation, and punishes or rewards each individual exactly as he or she deserved, no more, no less.

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    1. "And they were able to see on their...bodies"

      becoming thus, for some minutes at least, a kingdom of priests: atem r'ee'sem asher aw'see'see l'mitzraw'yim (19:4)...v'atem tee'yu-lee mamlechet kohanim (19:6): Bnai Yisrael could determine behaviors--like the kohanim of Vayikra 13--from signs upon the body

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  7. Yes. The concept of "emunah" in Judaism is not "blind faith", rather believing in something because it makes sense. See tshuvas haRashba (4,234) who says explicitly that even after krias yam suf there was the doubt that perhaps Moshe Rabeinu tricked the Jewish people, and the only thing that was completely convincing was when they heard Hashem speak directly to them at Har Sinai. Hence, "v'gam becha yaaminu leolam". The Rashba explains that the Jewish people's skepticism was inherited from the Avos, who taught their children not to believe in anything unless it was CLEAR that it was true.

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  8. Yes. The concept of "emunah" in Judaism is not "blind faith", rather believing in something because it makes sense. See tshuvas haRashba (4,234) who says explicitly that even after krias yam suf there was the doubt that perhaps Moshe Rabeinu tricked the Jewish people, and the only thing that was completely convincing was when they heard Hashem speak directly to them at Har Sinai. Hence, "v'gam becha yaaminu leolam". The Rashba explains that the Jewish people's skepticism was inherited from the Avos, who taught their children not to believe in anything unless it was CLEAR that it was true.
    -Yair Spolter (ypspolter@gmail.com)

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