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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Beshalach

More on the Price of Disunity

Last week, we introduced the idea that the lack of full cooperation between Yosef and Yehuda prevented the early Exodus from Egypt. We continue with this basic theme this week. Chazal (see Sota 36b) tell us that at the critical moment, right before the splitting of the Sea, the various tribes were in competitive mode. Rabbi Meir relates the following, based on his understanding of Tehillim 68:28. When Bnei Yisrael stood by the sea, each tribe claimed that they were going to jump in first. The Tribe of Binyamin went in first, and the Tribe of Yehuda stoned them. That is why Binyamin merited hosting the Divine Presence in the Beit Hamikdash. Rabbi Yehuda had a different version. Each tribe was trying to avoid going in. Since Nachshon, head of the Tribe of Yehuda, was the first, they merited having dominion in Israel, as it says: “Yehuda was for His holiness, Israel was for His kingdom” (Tehillim 114:2). Why did Yehuda have this kingdom? Because the “sea saw and fled” (ibid. 3).
Rabbi Yossef CarmelShvat 10 5777
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Last week, we introduced the idea that the lack of full cooperation between Yosef and Yehuda prevented the early Exodus from Egypt. We continue with this basic theme this week.
Chazal (see Sota 36b) tell us that at the critical moment, right before the splitting of the Sea, the various tribes were in competitive mode. Rabbi Meir relates the following, based on his understanding of Tehillim 68:28. When Bnei Yisrael stood by the sea, each tribe claimed that they were going to jump in first. The Tribe of Binyamin went in first, and the Tribe of Yehuda stoned them. That is why Binyamin merited hosting the Divine Presence in the Beit Hamikdash. Rabbi Yehuda had a different version. Each tribe was trying to avoid going in. Since Nachshon, head of the Tribe of Yehuda, was the first, they merited having dominion in Israel, as it says: "Yehuda was for His holiness, Israel was for His kingdom" (Tehillim 114:2). Why did Yehuda have this kingdom? Because the "sea saw and fled" (ibid. 3).
We see, in this midrash, two disagreements. The first is between the sons of Leah, represented by Yehuda, and the sons of Rachel, represented by Binyamin, as to who would rule. The second is a disagreement among Tannaim as to who received the leadership. The correct situation is as we discussed last week – the descendants of the two should lead in partnership. Let us illustrate the importance of such partnership with the help of Sefer Shoftim, from which this week’s haftara is taken.
Almost everyone agrees that the era of the Judges was a low point in the history of Bnei Yisrael. One can see a spiritual deterioration throughout, with a central characteristic being the lack of unifying leadership. Shoftim begins (see Shoftim 1:27) where Yehoshua ends off (see Yehoshua 14:12) – with the failure of the tribes to capture the entire Land which Hashem gave to them. In this context (Shoftim 1:1), Hashem answered the question as to who should lead the battle to liberate the land with "Yehuda shall go up." The Sons of Yehuda asked the Sons of Shimon to accompany them; they did not ask a tribe descending from Rachel. In that way, they continued the mistake that started in Sefer Bereishit, where enmity toward Yosef led to his selling.
The Sons of Yosef also made mistakes in this realm. The Tribes of Menashe and Ephrayim went to fight the enemies (ibid. 22) without inviting the descendants of Leah to take part. Kalev and the Tribe of Yehuda captured Chevron, and the question is why Yehoshua Bin Nun, the leader of the nation and of the Tribe of Ephrayim, was not involved in helping his old partner, with whom he had worked against the other spies. The answer seems, again, to be a lack of unity.
At this time of international attempts to harm the standing of the State of Israel and of terrorists to carry out hideous crimes against men, women, and children, let us recall that unity that stems from a willingness for joint leadership always brings good outcomes.
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