Friday, January 14, 2022

Netziv on who jumped into Yam Suf first: sheivet Yehudah or sheivet Binyamin -- and why it matters

There is a Netziv in parshas Zos HaBracha (Harchev Davar 33:12) that is relevant to our parsha that is worth taking a look at if you did not see it then or don't remember it.  Everyone seems to think that Nachshon was the first one to take the brave leap and jump into the Yam Suf, after which the waters split, but in actuality, Chazal (in Mechilta and Tosefta in Sota) have a machlokes whether sheivet Yehudah went in first or whether sheivet Binyamin jumped in first (see this post where I quoted the hesber of the Degel Reuvain to the mahlokes).  According to the view that Binyamin jumped in first, the gemara writes that the members of Yehudah began to toss stones at them --  how dare the youngest usurp the place of Yehudah!  Chazal give a mashal: a king asked his elder son to wake him at 9:00 in the morning, and also asked his younger son to wake him, but at sunrise.  When the youngest son went in to wake his father, the elder one tried to stop him.  "Father asked me to wake him only later!" he protested.  To which the younger son answered that he was also doing what the father told him to do, and to get out of his way.  Hearing the commotion and noise of the argument, the father woke up.  "Since you both wanted to do my bidding, you both get reward," he declared.  So too, Yehudah is given the reward of malchus; Binyamin is given the reward of Beis HaMikdash being built in his portion.

Why is it that Binyamin was so anxious to take the lead and did not defer to Yehudah, his elder brother?  And what does the mashal add to our understanding here?

Netziv explains that the nature of Binyamin's avodah was to live on the highest level of trust and bitachon in Hashem.  Life need not be constrained by the normal rules and expectations of derech ha'teva.  "Y'did Hashem, yishkon la'vetach alav..."  The Shechina is always close to Binyamin, as the Shechina is always close to a baal bitachon.  This is why Binyamin's bracha given by Moshe appears right after Levi's bracha, and this is why Binyamin was zocheh to have the Beis HaMikdash built in his portion.

Yehudah, on the other hand, accepted G-d's presence as manifest through derech ha'teva, finding G-d in the day to day normal activities of life.  "Yadav rav lo v'eizer mi'tzarav ti'hiyeh..."  You need to fight wars to defeat enemies; you need to take action to avert tzaros.  Don't just sit back and trust G-d to perform miracles.  It is not a lack of kvod Shamayim, but aderaba, it is the greatest kvod Shamayim to see G-d's presence within teva and not just above it.

There is no right and wrong in the choice between Binyamin vs Yehudah, and throughout the ages this same machlokes reverberates though Jewish thought.  If a person, or Klal Yisrael chooses, we can forget about the rules of teva, live as if Hashem's hashgacha will take care of everything, and if we truly believe it, then it will.  Or we can choose to live within the rules of teva and trust that that is the medium through which yad Hashem acts.  

When Shaul falls in battle, David cries a kinah, a lamentation  (Shmuel 2 1:17-18):

 וַיְקֹנֵ֣ן דָּוִ֔ד אֶת־הַקִּינָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עַל־שָׁא֖וּל וְעַל־יְהוֹנָתָ֥ן בְּנֽוֹ

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת הִנֵּ֥ה כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֥פֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר

Netziv asks: is this the time to talk about the need for Yehudah to learn archery?  What does that have to do with the death of Shaul?

He answers that David understood that when Shaul, who was from sheivet Binyamin, lead the nation, it was on that high level of expecting the miraculous, of trusting G-d to take care of everything.  With Shaul's death, that level of bitachon would be lost.  The passing of the mantle to Yehudah meant living within derech ha'teva, of needing archers and armies to fight wars, with G-d helping behind the scenes.  לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת is symbolic of that shift in level of belief and shift in level of hashgacha.

This is the machlokes that took place at Yam Suf.  There was a בְּר֨וּחַ קָדִ֤ים עַזָּה֙ כׇּל־הַלַּ֔יְלָה (14:21), a wind building all night, gaining in intensity, that could have pushed the waters of Yam Suf aside -- a meteorological occurrence, just the way a scientist would explain the event away.  The only difference is that this occurrence was not freak chance, but had yad Hashem behind it.  Sheivet Yehudah was waiting for the wind to pick up enough to split the water and then they would march through.  G-d does not need to reboot teva, to override teva, to make his presence known.  Aderaba, it is a higher level to find G-d within nature and not just beyond it.  

Binyamin, on the other hand, did not want to wait.  Forget nature -- just jump in and the water will split.  If you believe, you don't need to worry about anything else.  That is the ideal.  

The machlokes betweeh shevatim was not just a matter of who gets the kavod of going first, but it reflected different philosophies in avodas Hashem.

Chazal used the mashal of waking the king to convey this idea.  Kings don't normally wake up at sunrise.  They sleep in until later in the morning.  Yehudah followed the derech ha'teva in their avodas Hashem; he is the eldest son who wanted to wake his father the king only at the normal time.  Binyamim wanted to jump the gun, to go outside the norm, as that was their derech in avodah.

Hashem's response is that both approaches have merit.  All that matters in the end is that both intend to be marbeh k'vod Shamayim.

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