Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Beshalach
To dedicate this lesson

NO (OR YES) BONES ABOUT IT

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tevet 9 5778
What is the "secret weapon" of Israel? How is it that, despite our being so overwhelmingly out-numbered & out-gunned by so many enemies, we are able to emerge triumphant, time after time after time, Baruch Hashem?

Oh, I may have just answered my own question! Hashem is clearly our primary source of strength! But that is no secret; it’s an obvious "no-brainer!" We say each day in Tehilim (Psalms) 20: "They by horses & chariots, we by evoking the name of Hashem."

Our sedra begins by saying that Hashem led us in a roundabout way, so as to avoid our having to engage the P’lishtim. But then it injects the cryptic statement, "And Bnei Yisrael went up from Egypt Chamushim." Rashi first quotes the Mechilta as saying this unusual word means "armed" (as in "tachmoshet," ammunition). But Rashi seems troubled by this, for what was the point in our having weapons if we did not use them, neither against the P’lishtim nor against the
Egyptians who were chasing after us?

And so Rashi brings another idea, that "Chamushim" relates to "Chamesh" or 5, suggesting that only one-fifth of the Jews of Egypt ever made it out of there (their either being killed in the Plague of Darkness, or remaining behind by
choice when we departed in the Exodus).

But I have another thought. Immediately after saying Bnei Yisrael was armed, the Torah relates: "And Moshe took with him the bones of Yosef, who had sworn his brothers to a sacred oath that he would not remain in Egypt."

This, I suggest, constitutes the real "arms," the secret weapon of Am Yisrael. The knowledge that we would not, could not live forever in Mitzrayim, that our destiny was to live in our own homeland, Israel, the "natural habitat" of
the Jewish People where our fullest destiny would be played out. This knowledge - that there was no choice but to leave for home - energized & armed the nation, for it understood there was only 1 direction in which to move – forward.

This same conviction of "Ayn B’rera - we have no choice," is precisely what fuels our fierce determination to fight until victory today. An IDF holy soldier knows that he must win the battle, that he cannot be defeated, for there is nowhere to run, no place to which he can escape. We are not going back to the pogroms of Russia, the torture chambers of Seville or Granada or the ovens of Auschwitz. And when your backs are against the wall, you battle with an unrestrained
passion & courage - & you emerge victorious.

Those bones, those bones; THEY were our arms.
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