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Lets Just Make Something Perfectly Clear. . .

By: Rav Jonathan Bailey

Immediately before God initiates the system of makot which ultimately actualize the Exodus, He ‘reintroduces’ Himself to Moshe. He then commands Moshe to relay the following (famous) message to Bnei Yisrael.

 ֞ ֥ שׂ֘ ֣ ' וֹ֣ ֗ תּ֨֙ ֣ ֔ צּתּ֥ ֖ ֑ תּ֤ ֙ בּ֣וֹ וּ֔ וּשׁ֖ גּ:

I am the Lord who will take you out of the suffering of Egypt, save you from your slavery and redeem you with an outstretched hand and amazing wonders”

 תּ֨ ֥ ֙ ֔ ֥ ֖ ֑ תּ֗ כּ֣ ֤ ' ֣֔ מּוֹ֣ ֔ תּ֖ ֥וֹ :

“I will take you to me as a nation…because I am the Lord, your God…”

 ֤ ֙ ֔ שׁ֤ שׂ֨֙ ֔ ֣ ֔הּ ֥ ֖ וּ֑... ֥ ':

“I will bring you to the Land that I promised to give to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov…I am the Lord

Based on the repetition of the label “I am the Lord”, Malbim, Ramban and others understand this 'introduction' as split into three distinct steps: 1) Exodus from Egypt, 2) giving of the Torah, and finally 3) bringing the nation into Eretz Yisrael. Now, there’s no doubt that when students file onto a bus with the oh-so-excited anticipation of an upcoming tiyul, that the knowledge of when the next bathroom stop will be, or how long it will take before they arrive and can eat, for example, is fairly…welcomed. The more of a plan one knows, the more comfortable one is with the upcoming future as it unfolds. However, does God need to do this? Right before the makot begin are we to understand that God merely wants to ensure that His people are ‘comfortable’ with what’s about to play out? (And as it turns out, Bnei Yisrael don’t even appreciate it, being unable to hear it due to their broken spirit and arduous, enforced labor). So why do we have a record of God laying out His plan?

Tehillim, Chapter 114 – famous for being the second paragraph in Hallel.

 בּ֣ ֭שׂ מּ֑ בּ֥ ֝֗ ֥ :

When Yisrael left from Egypt; [when] the house of Yaakov [left] from [under the sovereignty of] a strong nation;

 ֣ וּ֣ שׁ֑וֹ ֝שׂ֗ שׁוֹ:

Yehudah was there for its sanctification; Yisrael [was there for] its rule;

 יּ֣ ֭ יּ֑ ֝יּדּ֗ סּ֥ וֹ:

The sea saw and fled; the Yarden turned backwards;

 ֭ ֣וּ ֑ גּ֝֗וֹ כּ:

The mountains shook like rams; the hills [shook] like sheep

The context of this perek as established in the opening pasuk is obviously the moment of the Exodus: ‘when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt’…the following list is then of the events that occured. The first of the events is the establishing of Eretz Yisrael (‘Yisrael’ and ‘Yehudah’ are classically the regions Eretz Yisrael are labeled with). The next stage incorporates the similar miracles of Yam Suf, and the splitting of the Yarden in the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua. And the third line can be easily understood as referencing the episode at Har Sinai (see Shemot 19:18). What we have therefore is an almost perfect record of events that transpired after the Exodus: Yam Suf (as they left Egypt) paired with the similar miracle of the splitting of the Yarden (as they left the desert), followed by Har Sinai: Exodus, Yam Suf (+Yarden) and Har Sinai. What therefore stands out is the fact that the stage of the establishing Eretz Yisrael event is blatantly out of order – it would have been perfectly placed at the end of this perek – as the final stage (of the three stages), exactly as God described it in our parsha! Why was it placed first?

I believe this perek of Tehillim is allowing us to appreciate the true message behind God’s laying out of His plan at the beginning of Va’era. The true significance of the Exodus was the arrival in Eretz Yisrael. The reason the establishing of Eretz Yisrael for Bnei Yisrael was ‘misplaced’ in this Tehillim was to make sure we fully understand the true goal of the Exodus from Egypt. From the very beginning, even as Bnei Yisrael were leaving Egypt, Eretz Yisrael was already waiting for them. The rest of the stages that followed – Yam Suf, Har Sinai, and the splitting of the Yarden - are understood therefore as essential steps to successfully achieve the ultimate goal of entering the Land.  Similarly, God tells Moshe, on the eve the beginning of the makot - the actualization of the upcoming Exodus – to make sure that Bnei Yisrael understand the true purpose of what’s about to play out. There will first be the stage of the Exodus from Egyptian bondage, then the giving of the Torah, which will then culminate not in the third stage of entering the Land, but rather, according to the read of the perek from Tehillim, in the goal to this entire process of entering into the Land as the Nation of God! It’s not that God will free them, give them the Torah and then bring them to the Land; but rather free them, give them the Torah so that He can bring them into the Land. And this is what Bnei Yisrael – and we today – must never ever forget: the ultimate purpose of the culmination of God’s historic promise to Avraham in freeing his descendants from slavery was Eretz Yisrael. Period. Full stop.

 

 

 

 

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