To say that a lot occurs in this sedra is perhaps an understatement. We start the sedra on the run from Pharoah, to be saved in the splitting of the sea and consequently sing shirah. After reaching this previously unmatched level of communal prophecy, we descend to complaining about lack of food, and receive ‘man’ and the mitzvah of Shabbes (as well as a few other mitzvos; rashi 15;25). And if that was not enough, there is still time to complain about thirst and fend off an attack from Amalek. As one can imagine, there are several issues to speak about, but let’s focus on one intriguing question which the Ibn Ezra asks - it’s one of those questions which begs ‘answer me!’

The Ibn Ezra contrasts the two wars of the sedra; the first being when HaShem split the sea for us and drowned the Egyptian army, with the second being the war with Amalek. He asks: Why did we essentially do nothing and sit back, letting HaShem ‘run the show’ in the battle against the Egyptians, whilst in the war against Amalek we selected warriors and physically went out and fought them? Let’s couple this with another question; throughout the entire war with Amalek, Moshe’s hands were raised up so that we would instil within ourselves fear of Heaven and consequently we won the war. Why is this the only war in which this occurred? Let’s offer two approaches to these questions, each containing very different ideas… In typically Jewish style, the first approach can be introduced by another question. In this week’s sedra (17;14), HaShem says that ‘I will wipe out the remembrance of Amalek,’ whilst in parshas Ki Tetzei (25;19), Moshe relates HaShem’s Message to Bnei Yisrael that ‘You shall wipe out the remembrance of Amalek.’ Is HaShem going to wipe them out or is it our job? The answer comprises another aspect of the partnership between us and HaShem that we discussed last week. Last week we focussed on this relationship from our perspective; that we can do a relatively small act and HaShem does a big act (eg HaShem splitting the sea after Nachshon ben Aminadav waded in as far as he could go). The other aspect is that HaShem assures their outcomes/results of our acts. One example is parnassah, in which we are supposed to do the acts which we must do to earn a living, and HaShem guarantees to help provide the results; that we will have parnassah. Another example is that the gemarra (megillah 6b) says ‘yagati umatzati ta’amin bo,’ - one who says ‘I have toiled in learning Torah and I have found rewards [from this], believe him.’ The word yagati means I toiled and put in my labour and effort, whilst the word matzati is from the word metziah (lost article), meaning a ‘fluke’ find nothing to do with any effort. Thus, the gemarra is saying that the relationship is that we toil and HaShem gives us the results, which do not come as a direct automatic result from our toil (R’ Tatz).

Likewise, here with Amalek, it is us and HaShem who will wipe out Amalek; we will do the actions and go out to battle with them, whilst HaShem will guarantee the results; success in battle. In short, HaShem will wipe them out via us. Again, the picture of the Sfas Emes is appropriate here; HaShem’s Command is like the brain of the body, which we - as the arms - carry out and thus join with HaShem, and HaShem allows the arms to produce the desired results. [That does not mean the actions of the arms themselves are outside HaShem’s Control.] As Rashi puts it (17;14), HaShem says ‘I want them to be destroyed.’ And when we act upon that command, it is HaShem wiping them out, just via us. Similarly, we are told (gemarra sukkah 52b) that if it was not for HaShem’s constant intervention, we would stand no chance against our individual yetzer haras (lower self). Why did HaShem create it to be like this; let HaShem just make it that everyone can beat their yetzer haras on their own, without needing special Divine Assistance? For HaShem wanted a constant partnership with constant ‘contact’ between us and Him. In a similar vein, the reason HaShem sent smaller portions of manna down every day as opposed to one fat clump once a year was so that there would be a daily reminder/ ‘meeting’ with HaShem (gemarra yoma 76a).

This will also answer the two questions above; the first battle - when HaShem did it all - was the establishing of the protocol; that HaShem is in charge of everything. And the second battle was not so dissimilar; it was to show that even when we did go out to fight ourselves, it was really HaShem doing it all and guaranteeing success; thus specifically here were Moshe’s hands raised skywards, for this was the first time as a nation that we were doing the fighting (unlike the makkos and kriyas yam suf) and Moshe was showing that it was really HaShem, and not us, who was running the show.

The second approach to answering the two questions is based on a Rashi (17;8). Rashi comments that the reason for the juxtaposition of our complaining about lack of water [thus doubting HaShem] with the attack of Amalek is that HaShem, who had personally protected and fed us thus far saw that we were saying ‘does HaShem care for us/is He amongst us’ and threw us down to the dogs (Amalek here) so that we would now know where He is.’ In other words, Amalek attacking us was a punishment for our doubting HaShem and so that we should correct our fault. And this attack happened in Reffidim; which chazal learn to mean ‘where we weakened (refu yedeihem) from Torah/mitzvos’ (mechilta, ba’al haturim).Thus, an open miracle like the splitting of the sea would not have been appropriate for us at that level - and we had to go out and fight ourselves.

In fact, a very important message can be gleaned from this. We had gone through our first major punishable fall as a nation - and what did we do to overcome this fall? When we went out to battle, Moshe held his hands aloft towards the Heavens to show us what our direction is; towards HaShem. In other words, it is all to easy after one fall to give up and essentially facilitate further falls by not getting back up on one’s feet. What must one do in order not to fall into this trap? One must remember their overall direction and aims, and where their roots lie - then one can be spurred on to getting back up and continuing along the path of these goals. Moshe taught the Bnei Yisrael to cling on to their direction and take comfort in the fact that HaShem had taken them personally out of Egypt, and thus to get over their fall and get back on their feet. A similar story is brought in the gemarra about Shlomo HaMelech who was once dethroned and he went around ‘ruling over his royal sceptre;’ meaning that he, too, when faced with a fall, pulled himself back up by clinging on to what he was - a king - even if this meant ruling only over his staff. In fact, this solution to Bnei Yisrael’s fall has deeper roots. One may ask the question; how could Bnei Yisrael reach such heights as to experience the first communal prophecy in history with such a degree of Divine revelation at the splitting of the sea, and then fall to doubting HaShem’s Presence amongst them when they complained about the lack of water? One approach is that Bnei Yisrael at the splitting of the sea were shown where their potential lay; that each person individually had the potential to be privy to an individual revelation and prophecy, and the nation as a whole have the potential to take part in a communal prophecy and revelation. However, we failed to internalise the levels of the splitting of the sea, and thus it did not affect the Bnei Yisrael on as much of a permanent basis as it should have done. Moshe’s hands being held aloft was a call to re-awaken the realisation of the Divine Providence shown in the splitting of the sea - for us to realise where we are from, who we really our, and that HaShem chose to take us out of Egypt to be His people and for us to live up to those potentials. Have a great shabbes,

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