And Welcome one and all to the answer page!!!!
We do hope that some commendable effort was first put into considering and discussing and researching the questions first, and without further ado…………
1) Where is there a song in the parsha? What inspired it, and why was it only sung then? Do we learn any halacha from this?
Az Yashir (then they would sing), after they crossed the sea of reeds, and saw their enemies destroyed in it. Their burst into song followed their appreciation of this unbelievable, unprecedented revelation of the Creator and His exacting providence and justice in the world, and how everything, even their exiles and suffering is all part of a greater picture.
Inside the opaque, physical exterior of everything, is a vibrant, everfresh spirit, which expresses itself in a song. (Every day has a song, and each person, so does every species, which some have a custom to say). (After Einstein, discovered the theory of relativity, relating mass and energy, such a concept is not so hard for our generation to grasp.) Whenever things are brought to their potential, their essence is realized, resulting in their song flowing forth, and joining in the symphony of creation. The word for song is the same word for ring, because when things come full circle, when the original intentions are brought to fruition, and the plans are a living reality, there is song and jubilation (the first stanza of Lecha Dodi reflects this).
Halachically, we learn from the verse which says “they shall sing’, to include at in our daily shacharis, as a glorious conclusion to Pesukei DeZimrah (the psalms before the Shma). We also learn from the fact that the chumash says that it was via their ascent in awe and faith in Hashem that they reached the level to be able to sing and praise the Creator, so too we lead into our Tefillos (the Amida), in which we praise the Almighty , by first reviewing our redemptions, (at the closure of the Shma) which serves to restrengthen our faith and connection to Hashem, elevating and drawing us nearer to be able to daven.
2) Who sung and how? Did anyone not sing? Why?
A: Moshe led the men in singing. Miriam took the women and led them in song, and they also took instruments and danced, which reflected their reaching a higher level of emunah (faith), Which was demonstrated many times in the future, such as their not participating in the two greatest sins of that generation – the golden calf, and the spies in Israel, – and thus merited a special connection to Rosh Chodesh.
The Angels did not sing, because the Egyptians were being killed, and since they are not emotionally partial, like humans, and they were not the direct benefactor of the miracle, they were not permitted to sing. As we say in the psalm 145 Ashrei ‘ Hashem is good to all, and merciful on all His handiwork”.
3) What is unique about the way the song is written in a Torah scroll?
The verses are ordered like bricks on the sides of the column, like the walls of the sea.
4) Who led the Jews into the sea?
Miriam’s husband, Nachshon, son of Aminadav, of tribe of Yehuda, went in even before the sea had split, with the trust that Hashem would do a miracle and grant them a passage through as He promised. The tribe of Benyamin followd at his heels. He merited to lead the tribes in the desert, and these two tribes, often associated, (beginning with the showdown before Yosef in Egypt), merited to have the temple reside between their plots in Israel, and perhaps because of this, were the two tribes that did not get exiled by Assyria, and lost into the dust of time.
5) What ‘Holiday’ Inn did the Jews stop in on their way out of Egypt? Where did this originate, and where do we see it resurface? paralleled?
Sukkos. Yakov also encamped in a sukkah after his salvation from Lavan and Esav. King David did the same after escaping from King Shaul. And so do we after passing through the days of Judgement in Tishrei. Perhaps on sukkos, we’ll discuss deeper the significance of this, and what a sukkah represents.
6) How did the Jews find their way by day and by night in the uncharted desert wilderness?
Hashem sent before them a pillar of cloud by day (also a surrounding of clouds to protect them, Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion of what the holiday of Sukkos commemorates), and a pillar of fire by night.
7) Does the Chumash tell over the downfall of Pharoah and his nation merely to triumphantly conclude their chapter, or did it serve any purpose?
The Chumash itself tells us Hashem’s interest in their destruction, namely that His Name is glorified not only when He is revealed through rewarding the righteous, but His supremacy and righteousness is also magnified throught he destruction of evil and it’s followers.
8) How many days did the Jews take to get to the sea? On what day did the Egyptians begin to pursue them? What day did the catch up? What was unique about the third day of the Jews escape and why?
It was a 6 day journey, as we discussed last week, they went into the sea on the last day of Pesach, which is a Yontiff like the first day (Double these for all you diaspora Yiddelle). The Egyptians got suspicious on the third day, for as the Jews originally only requested a 3 day retreat. They reported back to Pharoah on the fourth day, and had already caught up by the sixth. To mislead the Egyptians, Moshe told the Jews to travel towards Egypt on the third day.
The third day they were also encamped before two mountains called Pi HaChirot – the mouth of freedom, for the had to make a final choice whether to go forward or back. They were also traveling backwards that day towards a place called Baal Tzafon – Mighty of the North. Hashem intended to give the Egyptians one last chance to repent, by alluding to the place which also means ‘hidden’, or the power/might of internality, and integrity (represented by the north – which is where the sun hides, and other reasons not for here). But instead they chose wrongly again, and attributed the misorientation of the Jews to this last remaining god – letting their stubborn selfishness and arrogance fool them into believing that Hashem had finally met His match, bringing intentional amnesia on themselves on all that they had just experienced. No wonder the sages say that heresy is a corruption of the heart and not of the mind.
9) If the animals in Egypt had been destroyed by the epidemic and the hailfire, where did they get horses for their chariots? What does this show us?
The Egyptians who feared the word of the Lord took heed, and brought their animals inside. Nonetheless, we see that when push comes to shove, even the best of the goyim are bound to turn back on us and shed their virtues like yesterday’s fashions.
10) How were we able to feed ourselves in the desert for so long? How did our food come? How did it taste? How do we commemorate this?
We had the amazing Manna (and the well of Miriam) It tasted like a wafer fried in honey, but our tradtion says that this was miracle bread all the way, and could taste like anything you wanted to imagine. There is a dispute in the gemarra what bracha they made on it (one opinion is ‘Who brings forth bread from heaven,’ instead of the Earth)
It fell everyday, in order for them to have a constant dependency on Hashem, and learn to think of and trust Him. But on shabbos, work ceases, so on the sixth day, a double portion fell. We commemorate this by having double-bread on shabbos and Yontiff, and since, even today Shabbos is the fountain of blessing for the week.
11) Why is the verb ‘traveling’ used in reference to the Egyptians pursuit of us, written in singular? Where do we a similar idea regarding our people?
Because they united in their desire to attack us. As we see the Arabs can only manage to agree on one thing – us. Keep an eye out at Mount Sinai for a similar idea about the Jews uniting.
12) How were the Jews told to fight the Egyptians?
To remain silent and do nothing, for Hashem will fight their battle.
13) What did Moshe take out of Egypt with him? Why didn’t this happen earlier?
The bones of Yosef, and his brothers. Although, Jacob’s bones were taken out upon his death, Yosef knew that after his death, the Hebrews would lose their esteem and rank in Egypt, and they would not be allowed to leave until their redemption. Carrying the bones of the tribes (the 12 sons) also connected the Jews to their ancestors, and also demonstrated that Moshe is not some new fangled leader, but a link in the tradition from the patriarchs.
14) What other important birthday/new year should we prepare ourselves to receive this week?A: Tu Bishvat the birthday of the trees. Many have the custom of enjoying new and varied fruits to appreciate the kindness and wonder in creation. There is even a type of TuBishvat ‘seder’ paralleling the Pesach seder, with four cups, a story, songs and the whole bit, which is sourced in kaballah, and popular among Chassidim. (You can look at your Book of our Heritage, to learn more about the holiday.)
15) Which nation brazenly came out to battle with the Jews, despite their world-shaking salvations? Did we do anything at this point to instigate this suffering? What mitzvah resulted? How did we battle them?
A: The infamous nation of Amalek. Their attack is described as one who daringly jumps into a very hot tub, thereby cooling it off for others to come, and so other nations then had the nerve to battle with us afterwards.
We had just displayed a lack of faith in complaining about a lack of water, and Hashem’s ability and dedication to sustain us in the desert and how it was all a terrible mistake. When we deny and ignore the providence and goodness which Hashem does for us, He responds by truly removing Himself and casting us to the unfriendly forces in the world, whereby we realize how much we have always depended on our Father in Heaven, and how much the Almighty has always been doing for us, much like the relation between a parent and a child.
We have a mitzvah to constantly remember what Amalek did to us when we were weary from travel, and to strive to erase their existence, for the Torah revealed to us that their essence is evil, and have no redeeming qualities, (unlike every other thing and nation).
Yehoshua led the battle on the ground, while Moshe stood on the hill and raised his arms to the heavens. When his hands (which the chumash calls faithful) were raised we were victorious, and when the fell, so did we – in other words, we had to do tshuvah, and improve our faith and trust in Hashem, from Whom all success and might stems.
Good Luck And Good Shabbos Beshalach may we all sing of victories to come!
– Beth Shifra Crew