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A Different Unity

Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )

by Rabbi Ozer Alport

Rashi notes that when the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:2), they encamped כאיש אחד בלב אחד - like one person with one heart in a beautiful demonstration of national unity. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that this was a necessary prerequisite for receiving the Torah. However, it is difficult to understand what makes this so unique, as Rashi himself writes in our parsha (Exodus 14:10) that the Egyptians pursued the Jews to the Red Sea with a similar display of harmony.

Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner explains that there is a fundamental difference between the unity of the Jews and that of other nations, which is subtly hinted to by Rashi. The Jewish people are intrinsically connected as part of one large entity, whereas the members of other nations are fundamentally disassociated and out for their own personal interests. Only when their individual desires coincide do they team up in pursuit of a common goal, but not because of any deep bond. As soon as their goals inevitably diverge, they will go their separate ways.

A close reading of Rashi reveals that while he used the same expression to describe the Jews at Mount Sinai and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, he carefully reversed the order to make this very point. The Egyptians didn't have any true unity. For a brief moment, they were united with one heart (בלב אחד) in a common desire to recapture their fleeing slaves, and they therefore pursued them as one (כאיש אחד). The Jewish people, on the other hand, are intrinsically bound together as one person (כאיש אחד), and one person automatically has only one heart (בלב אחד).

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The Beis HaLevi, who served as the rabbi of the city of Brisk, was once studying with his son, Chaim, when a man entered to ask a question. The man had gotten into a major disagreement with a friend of his. In the heat of the moment, he took a vow swearing that he would never again see his friend. However, the friend had just passed away.

The man who took the vow served on the city's chevra kaddisha (organization which ritually prepares the dead for proper burial) and wanted to know if he was permitted to help prepare the body for the funeral. He reasoned that perhaps "seeing" his friend's dead body wasn't really considered seeing and wouldn't violate his oath. He came to ask the rabbi's opinion on the matter. The Beis HaLevi turned to his son, Chaim, then a young lad of eight, to ask for his thoughts on the subject.

Chaim replied that the question is explicitly answered Exodus 14:13. Moshe told the Jewish people not to worry, as they would never again see their Egyptian oppressors. However, several verses later (Ex. 14:30) we are told that they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. The Midrash explains that they didn't see the Egyptian bodies from a distance. Each Jew was able to discern the face of the Egyptian who had been his personal taskmaster, which would seem to violate the promise made by Moshe. Rather, we can conclude from here that "seeing" somebody after his death isn't considered seeing at all.

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Because it was forbidden to collect the Manna on Shabbos, a double portion fell on Friday to last them until Sunday (Ex. 16:22), which according to the Midrash (Mechilta) they split into two in order to make four loaves on Friday. If one was consumed on Friday during the day, one at the Friday night meal, and one at the Shabbos day meal, how were they able to fulfill the requirement of "lechem mishneh" (having two Shabbat loaves) at the third Shabbat meal (Shalosh Seudos) if only one loaf remained?

The Daas Z'keinim and Shibbolei HaLeket write that this question proves that one loaf of bread is sufficient for Shalosh Seudos and there is no requirement of lechem mishneh at this meal. The Daas Z'keinim also quotes another opinion which maintains that not only did a double portion of Manna fall on Erev Shabbos, but the three loaves which were made from it for the purpose of Shabbos also miraculously doubled, resulting in six loaves for Shabbos and lechem mishneh for each of the three meals.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman (Ayeles HaShachar 16:5) notes this dispute only pertains to somebody who was alone in the wilderness, as a family would have certainly had lechem mishneh remaining for Shalosh Seudos.

The Perisha (Orach Chaim 291:12) suggests that the entire concept of lechem mishneh on Shabbos is not dependent on the fact that the Jews in the wilderness ate lechem mishneh at that particular meal, but is a general commemoration of the miracle that a double supply of Manna fell on Erev Shabbos. The Dagan Shomayim notes that the Rema also seems to agree with the Perisha, as he writes (Orach Chaim 291:4) that one must use lechem mishneh at every meal that one eats on Shabbos, even if one eats more than three meals.

As a matter of halacha, the Shulchan Aruch rules that one must have lechem mishneh for Shalosh Seudos. The Rema notes that some people are lenient to use only one loaf at Shalosh Seudos, but he rules that one should be stringent and use two. The Mishnah Berurah writes that one should follow the strict opinion whenever possible.

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Rashi writes (Ex. 17:9) that for the battle against Amalek, Moshe instructed Yehoshua to select soldiers who were both strong and who possessed a fear of sin. How was Yehoshua able to discern who was truly righteous, and why did he need strong soldiers when God conducted the battle for them in a miraculous fashion?

Rabbi Yisroel Shenker cites the Talmud (Yoma 75a), which teaches that the more righteous a person was, the closer the Manna fell to his home. For the true tzaddikim, the Manna felt on their doorsteps. As Yehoshua's primary criterion for selecting soldiers was their piety, he could have simply observed where a potential fighter's Manna fell.

However, the Talmud adds that the Manna also fell at the doorsteps of the sick and the elderly independent of their spiritual levels in order to save them the exertion of having to travel to collect their Manna. As such, Yehoshua additionally insisted that the soldiers be strong, not because this trait was inherently necessary, but merely to demonstrate that the reason that their Manna fell at their doorsteps was because of their righteousness and not because they were weak and ill.

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