> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > What's Bothering Rashi?

Move Forward

Passover (seventh day) (Exodus 13:17-15:26 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

The Torah reading for the seventh day of Pesach is Exodus 13:7-15:26 - the crossing of the Reed Sea.

Exodus 14:15

"And Hashem said to Moses 'Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them move on.' "


RASHI the Children of Israel and let them move on - RASHI: They have nothing to do but move forward. For the sea will not stand in their way. The merits of the Forefathers and the faith they had in Me when they went out [of Egypt] is sufficient to split the sea for them.



Some Questions: Why the need for this comment? The verse says "let them move on." What does Rashi mean "they have nothing to do but to move on"? And why does he mention the merits of the Forefathers here?



Hint: Look at this verse and the next one.



An Answer: Verses 15 and 16 seem to be out of order. Verse 16 says that Moshe is to raise his hand over the sea and it will split. It would seem logical for this verse to come first. First Moses should raise his hand and split the sea then tell the Children of Israel to cross it. Rashi is relating to this difficulty.

How does his comment deal with it?

Your Answer:



An Answer: Rashi tells us an important lesson in faith and miracles. The Jews' faith was what split the sea, not Moses' magical waving of the staff. "They have nothing to do but to move forward." This means they need not wait for a miracle; their act of moving forward towards the threatening sea, which implies a faith in God's ability to save them, is sufficient to have the sea split for them. Moses' raising his staff was but a symbolic act(perhaps like Babe Ruth's raising his bat towards the stadium!?) to indicate that the sea would be split. But the cause of its splitting was the Jews' ability to rush towards the raging sea with faith in God.



We are left with the question: Why does Rashi mention the "merits of the Forefathers"? Where is this even hinted at in the verse?

Can you see any hint of this?

Hint: Look at Rashi's "dibbur hamatchil" ("lead words").

Your Answer:



An Answer: Rashi's "dibbur hamatchil" begins with "to the Children of Israel." This seems irrelevant to Rashi's main point – that they should move on towards the sea, even before Moses raised his staff. Perhaps it is these words that are the basis for his reference to the "merits of the Fathers." Verse 13 above refers to the people as "the People." Our verse could have said "speak to the people" or just "speak to them." Why mention "the Children of Israel" (Rashi implicitly asks )?

Rashi's answer is that being the Children of Israel (i.e. Jacob – and Isaac and Abraham) is their special merit. This merit will stand by them in this time of stress. God's promise to the Fathers that He will redeem their children is sufficient (with the children's act of faith, of course) to deliver them from danger at this time.



There is an important lesson in Jewish faith contained in this Rashi-comment. Miracles happen to the faithful because of their faith, not because of any unrelated magical Divine intervention. Acts of faith (like the Jews' moving forward towards the threatening sea) AND merits of the Fathers are the essential ingredients for supernatural Divine intervention. I would say that the merits of the Fathers are also essential so that one should never think that he alone (even with pure faith) can determine events.


Shabbat Shalom and Chag Somayach,
Avigdor Bonchek

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