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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Beshalach

No (or Yes) Bones About It

8
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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 Plishtim. 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 is troubled by this, for what was the point in our having weapons if we did not use them, neither against the Plishtim, nor against the Egyptians 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 during 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 we knew there was only 1 direction in which to move forward.

This same conviction of Ayn Brera - 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 Spain’s Seville or Granada or the ovens of Auschwitz. And when your back is against the wall, you battle with an unrestrained passion & courage - &, by force of conviction, you emerge victorious.

Those bones, those bones; THEY were our arms.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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