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לימוד תורה

The routine song of a nation

Parshah and its realization - Parshat Beshalach - and the war of the 'Iron Swords' 5784

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Dedicated to the IDF soldiers' success, to safeguard them lest any harm come to them, to the healing of all the wounded and the return of the abducted.

After more than a hundred days of reserve duty, some soldiers are leaving the combat sectors and are returning home. The war is still in progress, and it will take a long time for it to end. However, there are certain units that were released to return home for some time after long periods of being in dangerous zones fighting against a cruel and challenging enemy. They all experienced long days of intense activity, high operational stress, mental stress and often fears, exposure to real life-threatening difficult events, injury and loss of comrades-in-arms, and difficult sights that leave a mark on the soul.

For most of them, this was also a special time in which they mobilized for an all-Israeli cause, harnessed to go out and fight against one of the toughest and bitterest enemies that has arisen in our history. To make them pay for unprecedented cruel, satanic and monstrous actions on Shabbat Simchat Torah. Their fighting will create an improved security reality that will prevent similar attacks in the future, and will deter enemies around, near and far. And contribute the necessary conditions for the return of the abductees to their homes.

They mobilized with devotion for a higher cause, fighting the most just war in our history. They knew that it could take a toll on their soul and body. For this they took out special ‘powers’ from the depths of their soul, which are usually hidden in the routine day to day life, strengths that take the soul to higher and unusual places.

When the unit's period of combat is over, it holds a formation ceremony. In most of them there will also be a unit “Birkat HaGomel” (Thanksgiving Prayer), thanking G-d that they left in peace, and saying Yizkor -the Memorial Prayer- for those who fell in battle from their unit. Many of the soldiers will go up to the Torah and recite the “Gomel” prayer of gratitude after overcoming a life-threatening dangerous event.

Mentally, the transition from routine to combat is not easy. However, returning from a combat situation to the simple and 'grey' daily routine is not easy either. Those who have tasted the 'baptism of fire', literally, and its intoxicating thrills, may find it difficult to return to the banal daily routine.  Less tension, a normal routine, without dramas. A relaxed marital and family life, and a normal work environment.

Life force is like a flowing river that absorbs into its flow everything it encounters on its way. After a considerate and patient adjustment period, the majority will be 'swept' in the flow of the blessed routine life.

However, this might be a mistake. It is precisely the difficulty of getting to that routine that may elevate the people and the individual’s view of routine life reality. To change them from gray shades to bright and vivid colors. The enlistment to fight and risk oneself, is intended to enable the blessed routine of the people, for them to have a natural and normal life. It is possible to learn from this about the great value of life and routine. So much that there is justification to fight and risk oneself for it!

This insight makes it possible to direct the strengths that inspired us during war, to elevate the value of everyday life and to strengthen it. This, among other things, is the meaning of the 'Thanksgiving Prayer'. The acknowledgment to G-d that we were privileged to go through the war in peace, to continue our creative life and move forward.

The nation of Israel faced a similar situation at the splitting of the Red Sea. While standing on the seashore they were trapped between the sea in front of them, between the cliffs to the right and left and the Egyptians chasing them from behind. A step away before annihilation:

וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל ה'

“…Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to Hashem”. (Shmot 14:10)

The Divine salvation came from an unexpected and sudden miraculous direction. The sea splits, the people of Israel pass through it to their freedom and the persecuting Egyptians drown in it.

The spontaneous thanksgiving prayer for the miraculous Divine salvation and amazing revelation became the 'People's Song'.

The "Song of the Sea”, the song of salvation, redemption and thanksgiving to G-d, the song of faith - וַיַּאֲמִֽינוּ בַּה' וּבְמשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ

"and they believed in Hashem, and that Moshe was His servant”.

The song that came about because they were rescued.

בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה שֶׁהָיוּ עוֹמְדִים יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל הַיָּם וְאוֹמְרִים שִׁירָה, הִתְגַּלָּה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עֲלֵיהֶם, וְכָל מַרְכְּבוֹתָיו וְחֵילוֹתָיו, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ אֶת מַלְכָּם שֶׁעָשָׂה לָהֶם כָּל אוֹתָם נִסִּים וּגְבוּרוֹת, וְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד יָדַע וּהִתְבּוֹנֵן מַה שֶּׁלֹּא יָדְעוּ וְהִתְבּוֹנְנוּ שְׁאָר נְבִיאֵי הָעוֹלָם.

שֶׁאִם תֹּאמַר שֶׁלֹּא יָדְעוּ וְלֹא הִדְבִּיקוּ הִשִּׂיגוּ חָכְמָה הָעֶלְיוֹנָה - מִן הַשִּׁירָה הַזּוֹ תִּרְאֶה שֶׁכֻּלָּם הִסְתַּכְּלוּ בַּחָכְמָה וְיָדְעוּ דְבָרִים וְאָמְרוּ. שֶׁאִם לֹא כָּךְ, אֵיךְ אָמְרוּ כֻלָּם מִלִּים אֲחִידוֹת שֶׁלֹּא סָטוּ אֵלֶּה מֵאֵלֶּה, וּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר זֶה - אָמַר זֶה, וְלֹא הִקְדִּים מִלָּה זוֹ לְמִלָּה זוֹ, אֶלָּא כֻּלָּם בְּמִשְׁקָל אֶחָד, וְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ בְּפִי כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד, וְכָל הַדְּבָרִים נֶאֶמְרוּ כְּאִלּוּ יָצְאוּ מִפֶּה אֶחָד? אֶלָּא וַדַּאי כֻּלָּם בַּחָכְמָה הָעֶלְיוֹנָה הִסְתַּכְּלוּ, וְיָדְעוּ דְבָרִים עֶלְיוֹנִים, וְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ בְּפִי כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד.

“At the time when the Israelites were standing on the sea and singing a song, the Holy One, blessed be He, appeared to them, and all his chariots and troops, so that they might know their King who had made for them all those miracles, and each and every one knew and observed …

If you say that they did not know … they obtained the highest of wisdoms - from this song you will see that they were all wise and knew things and spoke. If this were not the case, how come they all said the same words and did not deviate from others, and what he said – the other one said, and he did not precede one word with another, but all of them at the same time, And the Holy Spirit was in each and every one’s mouth, and all the words were spoken as if they came out of one mouth? But surely all of them were enlightened by the supreme wisdom, and knew supreme things, and the Holy Spirit was with each and every one of them.” (Zohar Parashat Beshalach 25)

After rising so high comes the difficulty of the routine. Of dealing proportionately with the sea booty וּגְדוֹלָה הָיְתָה בִזַּת הַיָּם מִבִּזַּת מִצְרַיִם –“Greater, indeed, was the booty they obtained at the Red Sea then the booty they had brought out of Egypt” (Rashi Shmot 15:22) and the crisis of the bitter water -Marah (Shemot 15:22-26).

The rescue highlights the life value of the nation. From here the people of Israel set out on a generations journey. Every day the Splitting of the Sea and the Song are remembered. As well as the meaning of life for generations.

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