Beshalach 5778

RABBI BENZION MORGENSTERN

ויאמינו בה’ ובמשה עבדו (שמות יד:לא)

And they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant. (Shemos 14:31)

It seems that Bnei Yisrael did not have faith until after קריעת ים סוף, the splitting of the Red Sea. Yet the very first time that Moshe and Aharon spoke to Bnei Yisrael to inform them that Hashem would redeem them from Egypt, the Pasuk statesויאמן העם, “and the people believed” (Shemos 4:31). They witnessed the miracles that Moshe performed as signs of his prophecy and believed him. What, then, is the meaning of the Pasuk that afterקריעת ים סוף they had faith?
Ran (Droshos 11) explains: Originally, they believed Moshe’s prophecy. Only afterwards, when Moshe told Pharaoh that Hashem requested that he send them out for three days to slaughter Korbanos in the desert, did doubts and questions arise in their minds. Hashem was taking the Jews out of Mitzrayim permanently, so why was Moshe making up a story about three days? That would be the way weak slaves act when they cannot escape. They get permission for a short break and don’t return. One who is a messenger of Hashem does not need to act with such deceit. Hashem has the ability to do whatever He wants, and surely He can punish Pharaoh in a way that he would agree to send them out forever. The ten Makkos were probably enough for that, and, if not, Hashem could have brought as many as needed. If so, why didn’t Moshe call a spade a spade, and say that Pharaoh should send them out for eternal freedom? This caused great doubt that Moshe was acting in the role of Hashem’s messenger.
Furthermore, before leaving Egypt, Moshe told the Jews to borrow gold and silver from the Egyptians. It was never meant to be returned. Although the Gemara (Sanhedrin 91a) clarifies that this money was payment for all the years of slavery, there still remains a burning question. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 27b) states that if someone owes you money, you are not allowed to surreptitiously take some of his possessions to collect the debt, lest you appear like a robber. Rather, take it blatantly and say, “I am taking what I’m owed.” If so, why did Moshe not tell them to take from the Mitzrim and inform them or proclaim to them that it was payment for all their slave labor? Even in weakness, one may not act so. How much more so Bnei Yisrael, who at that time were overwhelming to the Egyptians.
These unassailable questions were reason to cause many Jews to doubt Moshe’s prophecy.
Hashem planned all this so that the Egyptians would willingly chase the Jews into the Yam Suf, so He could punish them מדה כנגד מדה, measure for measure. Had Pharaoh thought he was sending the Jews to eternal freedom, it would have been purposeless for him to chase after them. Had he been overpowered by Hashem, forced to surrender, and freed His nation completely, Pharoah surely wouldn’t chase after them. Therefore, Pharaoh was misled. He thought Hashem only wanted a three-day journey, a brief Holiday, to slaughter offerings to Him. So, when Bnei Yisrael did not return, Pharaoh thought כי ברח העם, that the nation had fled, and this was not what Hashem requested but what they did on their own.
In addition, had the Egyptians been aware that the gold and silver was payment, once having given it they would have never dreamt of trying to retrieve it. They were understandingly terrified of further punishment from Hashem. But since they had lent their valuables merely for a short Holiday, they were adamant when they found themselves deceived. As they understood it, this was an act of Moshe and the Jews, not the will of Hashem. They therefore chased the Jews and confidently entered the Yam Suf of their own free will, bringing themselves to their fitting punishment.
After Bnei Yisrael witnessed the chase and the eventual outcome of the Egyptians’ punishment מדה כנגד מדה, they realized the master plan of Hashem and all of their questions were answered.