"ויהי בשלח פרעה את העם"
“And it came to pass when Pharaoh sent out the people.” (13:17)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 10b) states that the word “vayehi” often denotes a time of distress. Leaving Egypt was indeed an event that the Jewish people eagerly anticipated. After slaving for many years, undoubtedly, they wanted to become free people. So why the use of “vayehi”?

ANSWER: Moshe pleaded with Pharaoh to release the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. He stubbornly refused till Hashem performed many miracles. As strange as it may seem, there were still some Jews who thanked Pharaoh for “beshalach Paroh et ha’am” — permitting them to leave and sending them away. The Torah uses the expression “vayehi” to portray the sad situation that after all the sufferings under Pharaoh, some gave credit to Pharaoh for sending them away instead of praising and thanking Hashem.

(פניני התורה)

"ויהי בשלח פרעה את העם"
“And it came to pass when Pharaoh sent out the people.” (13:17)

QUESTION: Why is the cantillation (“trope printed above the Hebrew text) revi’i munach on the words “vayehi beshalach”?

ANSWER: Regrettably, there existed among the Jewish nation a group of wicked people uninterested in leaving Egypt. Had Hashem punished them publicly, the Egyptians would have thought that the suffering affected everyone, both the Jews and themselves. Therefore, during the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians were unable to see anything and were literally tied to their places, these unworthy Jews died and were buried.

The Torah relates, “vachamushim alu B’nei Yisrael” — “and B’nei Yisrael went up armed” (13:18). Rashi explains that the word “chamushim” alludes to the fact that only one fifth of the people left Egypt, while the other four fifths died.

Hence, the words “vayehi beshalach” have the cantillation of “revi’i munach” (which can be read as meaning “four remains”) to indicate that four of the five portions remained, and only one fifth of the people left when Pharaoh sent them out.

(זר הצבי)

"ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף עמו"
“And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” (13:19)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Sotah 13a) says that while all the Jews were occupied with acquiring the gold and silver of the Egyptians, Moshe was occupied with the mitzvah of the “bones of Yosef.” The Gemara connects this with the pasuk“chacham-leiv yikach mitzvot — “The wise-hearted takes mitzvot (Proverbs 10:8).

What wisdom did Moshe show here?

ANSWER: Moshe was considered a Kohen (for the 40 years the Jews were in the wilderness or at least until after the seven days of inauguration, see Zevachim 102a). It is forbidden for a Kohen to defile himself by contact with a corpse. However, a corpse no one is taking care of, is considered a meit mitzvah, and even a Kohen should defile himself for its sake.

Since all the Jews were occupied with gathering the gold and silver of the Egyptians, no one took care of the bones of Yosef. Moshe, in his wisdom, occupied himself with the mitzvah of caring for the bones of Yosef because it was a case of meit mitzvah, for which even a Kohen may defile himself.

(תוספת ברכה)

"ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף עמו"
“Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.” (13:19)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Sotah 13a) there is a dispute as to where Yosef was buried. According to one opinion he was interred in the crypt where the Kings of Egypt are buried, and according to another opinion he was buried in the Nile river. Yosef was definitely one of the greatest personalities of his time. It would be logical to assume that his burial place was a national monument; how then is it possible for such diverse opinions as to where he was buried?

ANSWER: The name “Yosef” can refer to the Jewish people. As the Psalmist says, “O Shepherd of Israel (Hashem), You who leads Yosef (the Jewish people) like a flock” (80:2). Since Yosef provided for his brothers and their families throughout the years of the Egyptian famine, all of Jacob’s descendants who survived by Yosef’s benevolence are called by his name (Rashi).

The views expressed in the Gemara can be explained as a metaphor for the survival of the Jewish people throughout the galut.

The issue is what is the source of strength of the Jewish people. What secret power is “buried” within them that helps them endure and survive all the persecutions they encounter throughout their lengthy exile? One opinion is that it is due to the “crypt of Kings” — their political connections to the highest officials in government. Fortunately, often the intelligence, wisdom, and contribution for the betterment of the country made by members of the Jewish people has been recognized, gaining them access to government. In turn, these individuals used their influence on behalf of their brothers.

Another view claims that their source of strength is the “Nile river” — a body of water completely separate from the land. This symbolizes that the Jewish people have nothing to do with the inhabitants of the country in which they dwell. Their absolute detachment and isolation from Egyptian society helped preserve their identity and ultimately enabled them to survive the alien forces which sought their destruction.

In reality, both views are correct. Even when the Jew rises in government circles and in the eyes of its leaders, he must always remember to maintain his identity and his unique Jewish spirituality. This was actually “Atzmut Yosef” (lit. the bones) — the “essence” of Yosef, and the philosophy he embodied. Moshe “carried” this legacy and imparted it to Klal Yisrael.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"ואמר פרעה לבני ישראל נבכים הם בארץ"
“Pharaoh will say to the Jews: ‘They are lost in the wilderness.’” (14:3)

QUESTION: All the Jews left Egypt or died during the days of darkness. To which Jews will Pharaoh speak?

ANSWER: Moshe told Pharaoh that the Jews wanted to leave Egypt to serve Hashem and that the trip would take only three days. Afterwards, they would return. Prior to their leaving, Hashem said to Moshe, “Speak into the ears of the people that they should borrow silver vessels and gold vessels” (11:2). This was to be kept secret so that Pharaoh should not find out that the Jews did not intend to return. Datan and Aviram, the infamous troublemakers, were not told that the Jews would be leaving for good, so that they could not inform Pharaoh.

Thus, when it came time to leave Egypt, Datan and Aviram decided not to go because it was not worth the effort to make such a big trip in three days. When the Jewish people do not return, Pharaoh will say to “the Jews” — Datan and Aviram, “It seems your people are lost in the wilderness.”

(תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל)

"ויגד למלך מצרים כי ברח העם ויהפך לבב פרעה ועבדיו"
“And it was told to the King of Egypt that the people fled; Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart.” (14:5)

QUESTION: The people did not run away. Were they not asked to leave?

ANSWER: In Parshat Beshalach the term “am” — “people” — refers to the “eirev rav,” a mixed multitude of Egyptians who left Egypt together with the Jewish people, and the expression “B’nei Yisrael” refers to the members of the Jewish community.

When Pharaoh asked the Jewish people to leave Egypt, he sent along with them a contingency of his own Egyptians. He anticipated that this “fifth column” would assure the return of the Israelites to Egypt. Suddenly, word reached Pharaoh that “barach ha’am” — his own people whom he sent along with the Jewish people had fled.

Pharaoh now had a change of heart for permitting the Children of Israel to leave, because not only did he lose his slaves, but he also lost his own subjects who enriched his coffers with taxes.

(אור החיים)

* * *

Originally, the Children of Israel were destined to be slaves for 400 years in Egypt, but were only there 210 years. The word “barach” (ברח) — “fled” — has the numerical value of 210. When the Egyptians began to complain to Pharaoh that “barach ha’am” — the Jews were there only 210 years — again his heart hardened and he regretted sending out the Jewish people prematurely.

(רבינו בחיי)

"ויאמר משה אל העם אל תיראו...ה' ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון"
“Moshe said to the people, ‘Do not fear...G‑d will fight for you, and you shall be silent.’” (14:13-14)

QUESTION: Moshe should have only said, “Do not fear. G‑d will fight for you.” Why did he add “You shall be silent”?

ANSWER: The Midrash says: Continuously Hashem has an argument with Satan. Satan complains to Hashem that the Jewish people commit various crimes. Hashem tells Satan, “Instead of speaking evil about the Jewish people, let us compare their record with that of the gentile world, and you will see how upright the Jewish people are.”

However, Hashem has a problem when Satan complains that the Jewish people speak in shul during davening and the reading of the Torah. It is difficult for Him to defend them because in church the gentiles are very quiet and well behaved.

Alluding to this Moshe told the Jews, “Do not worry about any problem Satan tries to create, because Hashem will fight him and defend you. However, the condition is “Ve’atem tacharishun” — “You should be silent in shul during davening and the Torah reading. Do not speak any devarim betteilim — idle talk — because Hashem finds it difficult to defend us from this complaint of Satan.”

(ילקוט האורים בשם חידת שמשון)

"וישם את הים לחרבה ויבקעו המים"
“Hashem made the sea dry land and the water split.” (14:21)

QUESTION: Water normally flows, and only Hashem can alter the laws of nature and split the sea. The Gemara (Sotah 2a), says, that pairing two people in marriage is as difficult as splitting the sea, and the Gemara (Pesachim 118a) says that earning a parnasah — livelihood — is as difficult as splitting the sea (Pesachim 118a).

In what way is marriage, and parnasah analogous to the splitting of the sea?

ANSWER: When the Children of Israel saw Pharaoh pursuing them into the wilderness, they formed a number of plans of action. One group favored a battle with the Egyptians, another group advised leaping into the sea, a third said to surrender and return to Egypt, and a fourth advocated crying to Hashem for help. Nobody dreamt of the possibility that the sea would split and that they would march through valiantly on dry land (see Mechilta 14:13).

Frequently, young people fantasize about their most suitable match. However, despite their plans, they meet their “bashert” in a totally unanticipated way, and often one marries someone from a distant place never originally envisioned. Similarly, in earning one’s livelihood, an individual may have many plans and calculations, but ultimately Hashem often provides him an unanticipated source of income.

(שמעתי מדודי הרב ברוך הכהן ז"ל כהן מח"ס קול תודה)

"ויבאו בני ישראל בתוך הים ביבשה והמים להם חומה מימינם ומשמאלם.... ובני ישראל הלכו ביבשה בתוך הים והמים להם חמה מימינם ומשמאלם."
“The Children of Israel came within the sea on dry land, and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.... The Children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea; the water was a wall for them on their right and on their left.” (14:22,29)

QUESTION: 1) Why, after relating that the Children of Israel walked through the sea on dry land and that the entire Egyptian entourage was drowned, does it repeat that the Children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea?

2) Why when first describing the splitting of the sea, is the word chomah (חומה) — wall — written with a "ו" and when the Torah describes the miracle a second time it is written without a "ו"?

ANSWER: When the Jews started their travel in the wilderness, Hashem told Moshe to change direction and start traveling back towards Egypt, so that “Paroah will say livenei Yisrael — to the Children of Israel — they are locked up in the land; the wilderness locked them in” (14:3).

Commentaries ask, since all of the Children of Israel left Egypt, how can Paroah possibly say something “livenei Yisrael”“to the Children of Israel”?

Targum Yonatan ben Uziel explains that originally Moshe told Paroah that the Jews would leave Egypt to serve Hashem and that the trip would take only three days. Thus, when the time came to leave Egypt, the infamous trouble makers, Datan and Aviram decided not go because it was not worth the effort to make such a big trip in three days. Hence, the “B’nei Yisrael” — “Children of Israel” — to whom Paroah will speak are Datan and Aviram.

When Paroah and his select armies chased after the Jews, Datan and Aviram joined him. Hashem told Moshe to tell the people not to fear the Egyptians, whereupon they started going into the sea. The sea then miraculously split, and the waters stood like a wall on their left and on their right. Afterwards, when Paroah and his army came after them, the waters covered over them and they were drowned.

The Torah is relating that another miracle occurred while the Egyptians were drowning. Namely, there was a special splitting of the sea so that, “B’nei Yisrael” — “the Children of Israel” — i.e. Datan and Aviram, could go through in safety and join with the rest of the Jews on the other side of the sea.

The word chomah with a "ו" means a wall. Without a "ו" it can be read as chaimah (חֵמָה), which means anger.

The first time the waters split for the entire Klal Yisrael, they happily stood like a wall on their right and on their left. However, when they had to split a second time for “B’nei Yisrael” — Datan and Aviram — they were angered to have to change their free-flowing nature for these wicked people. Therefore, the word chomah is written without a "ו" to indicate that this time they stood as a wall — chaimah — angrily.

(הגדה מוצל מאש)

"ויסר את אפן מרכבתיו וינהגהו בכבדת"
“And He took off the wheel of their chariots, and He made them drive heavily.” (14:25)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk say “ofan” — “wheel” — in the singular, although a chariot has four wheels?

ANSWER: Had Hashem removed all four wheels of their chariots, the horses could have exerted themselves and dragged the chariots on the ground. However, by removing only one wheel, Hashem caused their ride to be turbulent and agonizing with the chariots violently swaying from side to side. Thus, the riders were pummeled and pounded by the damaged chariots.

(שער בת רבים)

"ויושע ה' ביום ההוא את ישראל מיד מצרים"
“G‑d saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians.” (14:30)

QUESTION: It would have been sufficient to state, “G‑d saved Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians.” What do the words “that day” signify?

ANSWER: Pharaoh ordered that all the Jewish boys be drowned in the river, but when Moshe was born, his mother managed to hide him for three months. Unable to conceal his whereabouts any longer, she was compelled to place him in the river and leave his fate to Hashem. That day was the twenty first of Nissan (the seventh day of Pesach). Angels in heaven witnessing this pleaded before Hashem, “The one who will be reciting praise to you on this day should be smitten on this day?!” Their plea was accepted: Moshe’s life was spared (Sotah 12b).

Arriving at the shores of the sea on the twenty first of Nissan, the people feared for their lives when they saw the Egyptians pursuing them. Hashem came to their rescue and saved them from the hands of the Egyptians. However, in reality it had all started many years earlier when on that day, He accepted the plea of the angels and spared the life of Moshe, who ultimately redeemed the Jews from Egypt.

(מלא העומר)

"וירא ישראל את היד הגדלה אשר עשה ה' במצרים...ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו"
“And Israel saw the big hand which G‑d made in Egypt...and they believed in G‑d and his servant Moshe.” (14:31)

QUESTION: What “big hand” did they see, and how did this cause them to believe in Moshe?

ANSWER: Pharaoh ordered the drowning of newborn Jewish boys. When Moshe was born, his mother managed to keep his birth a secret for three months. Afterwards, she put him in a box and placed it at the river’s edge.

Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe and noticed the box. The Torah relates that she stretched out her arm and took it. Rashi (2:5) explains that when she stretched out her hand, it miraculously elongated and she was able to retrieve the box. When the Jewish people learned about “the big hand” which Hashem made many years ago in Egypt to save Moshe, they recognized his stature and believed in him.

(ילקוט האורים בשם לב ארי')

"זה א-לי ואנוהו...מרכבת פרעה...ומבחר שלשיו טבעו בים סוף"
“This is my G‑d and I will glorify Him...The chariots of Pharaoh and his chosen captains sank in the sea.” (15:2-4)

QUESTION: What is the connection between glorifying G‑d and the drowning of “his chosen captains” (shalishav)?

ANSWER: Based on the words “zeh Keili ve’anveihu” — “this is my G‑d and I will glorify Him” (15:2), the Gemara (Shabbat 133b) derives that when one performs a mitzvah, it should be done behiddur — in a beautiful way. According to an opinion in Gemara (Bava Kamma 9b) this means one should spend an “outside” third extra, i.e., divide the cost of average tefillin in half, and add this amount to acquire a better quality tefillin, etc. (Thus the addend is a one-third of the sum total.)

According to the Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel 14:7, the word “shalishav” refers to three horses. Originally, it was the custom that a chariot to be drawn only by one horse; in the days of Yosef, Pharaoh changed it to two. Wanting to overtake the Jewish people quickly, Pharaoh now used three prize horses to pull each chariot.

Upon being saved by Hashem from the vicious Pharaoh, who added a “third” in his effort to destroy them, the Jewish people declared that in appreciation they would perform mitzvot behiddur, by adding up to an additional third.

(בני יששכר מאמרי שבתות מא' ב' אות ה')

"תבאמו ותטעמו בהר נחלתך"
“You will bring them and plant them on the mount of Your inheritance.” (15:17)

QUESTION: By saying, “You will bring them,” instead of “You will bring us,” Moshe was prophesying that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael (Rashi).

Since they would all die in the wilderness due to the sin of the meraglim — spies — why did Moshe say that anyone would come to Eretz Yisrael? (See Rashi.)

ANSWER: Eighty years earlier, Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish baby boys be thrown into the river. To circumvent this, the Jewish women would go out to the fields to give birth and leave the babies there. Hashem provided two stones for them, out of which flowed milk and honey. When the Egyptians were out in the fields, the ground would crack open, allowing the children to fall in, and then close up and hide them. When the Egyptians would leave, the ground would open up to let them breathe the fresh air. When Hashem appeared at the splitting of the sea, they sang, “This is my G‑d,” recognizing the G‑d who cared for them when they were little babies (Sotah 11b).

Only those people who were between the ages of 20 and 60 when the Jews left Egypt died in the wilderness due to the sin of the meraglim — spies. Anyone younger or older survived (Bava Batra 121b). Thus, the people who sang the shirah were 80 years old at that time, and they all merited to come to Eretz Yisrael.

The only exception was Moshe. He too, was now 80 years old, but he did not enter Eretz Yisrael. Consequently, Rashi correctly says that Moshe unknowingly prophesied that he would not come into Eretz Yisrael, but all the others his age, who had sung the shirah, did indeed come to Eretz Yisrael.

(ילקוט האורים)

"ותקח מרים הנביאה אחות אהרן את התף בידה"
Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the tambourine in her hand.” (15:20)

QUESTION: 1) Instead of saying “et hatof”“the tambourine” — indicating a specific one — could it not have just said tof — “a tambourine”? 2) Why does the Torah mention here that she was a prophetess?

ANSWER: Eighty years before Kriat Yam Suf — the splitting of the Red Sea — Pharaoh issued a decree to drown all the Jewish baby boys. At that time, Amram, apprehensive about being married and having children, divorced his wife, Yocheved. His daughter Miriam implored him to remarry Yocheved and also prophesied that her mother would give birth to a child who would take the Jewish people out of galut. Due to Miriam’s insistence, he remarried Yocheved at a very happy wedding celebration in which Miriam and her younger brother, Aharon, danced and entertained (Sotah 12a). Throughout all the years Miriam cherished the tambourine she used at the wedding and carried it with her.

When Moshe crossed the sea with the Jewish people, the redemption from Egypt reached its fruition. Experiencing the fulfillment of her prophecy, Miriam joyously took out the wedding tambourine and called on everyone to rejoice.

(שמעתי מהרב מנחם מענדל שיחי' אלפערין)

"ותקח מרים הנביאה אחות אהרן את התף בידה ותצאן כל הנשים אחריה בתפים ובמחלת ותען להם מרים שירו לה'"
“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam called out to them, ‘Sing to G‑d.’” (15:20-21)

QUESTION: The word “vata’an” literally means, “answered,” whom did Miriam answer?

ANSWER: Upon witnessing the great miracles at the Red Sea, Moshe and the Jewish people sang praise to Hashem. Soon afterwards, Miriam led a group of Jewish women with instruments. The men noticed this and told them, it is forbidden for women to sing in the presence of men. Miriam answered them, “We will only play the music, and you men will be the ones to sing.”

This fits in very well with the words of the pasuk: “vata’an” — “and she answered” — “lahem — “to them” (masculine plural). If Miriam had been telling the women to sing, grammatically it should have said “vatomar lahen — “and she said to them” (feminine plural).

(שמעתי מזקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קפלן)

* * *

There are opinions that Miriam led the women in song (Rashi). In order not to violate Torah law, they played musical instruments so that their voices would be drowned out and not heard by men.

(פרדס יוסף)

"ותען להם מרים שירו לה' כי גאה גאה סוס ורכבו רמה בים"
“Miriam told them ‘Sing to G‑d: He is mighty and exalted; the horse and it’s rider He threw into the sea.’” (15:21)

QUESTION: Why did she emphasize to the women the drowning of the horse and rider?

ANSWER: The ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was to receive the Torah, which all men are obligated to study. According to the Gemara (Sotah 21a), although women are not obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study, they share in the reward for the Torah study of their husbands and children, which is generated thanks to their assistance. They are the ones who send the children off to school, and make the personal sacrifice of granting their husband permission to pursue Torah study.

When Hashem drowned the Egyptians and their horses, Miriam wondered why the unfortunate horses were punished. What wrong had they done? She concluded that since the horses were assisting the riders in their evil plans, they too deserved punishment. From this she deduced how great the reward would be for women who assist and inspire their husbands and children to study Torah.

(פרדס יוסף)

"ויאמר אם שמוע תשמע לקול ה' אלקיך והישר בעיניו תעשה והאזנת למצותיו ושמרת כל חקיו כל המחלה אשר שמתי במצרים לא אשים עליך כי אני ה' רפאך"
“And He said, ‘If you will surely listen to the voice of G‑d and do what is right in His eyes, hear His commandments, and keep all His statutes, then any of the diseases I placed upon Egypt I will not bring upon you; for I am G‑d your healer.’” (15:26)

QUESTION? What is the connection between obeying Torah, and Hashem being the healer?

ANSWER: Unfortunately, there are people who refuse to fulfill mitzvot with the argument that they do not understand their purpose. The response to them is that one who is, G‑d forbid, ill visits a doctor who prescribes medication. Though the patient is not a pharmacist and has no knowledge of the effect of the medication, he puts his trust in the doctor and eventually becomes healthy. Similarly, Hashem is our doctor. He “prescribes” Torah and mitzvot to keep us spiritually “healthy.” We must follow His instructions regardless of whether we understand how they can benefit us.

(נחל קדומים)

* * *

Spiritual illness is caused by our “yeitzer” (יצר) — “evil inclination.” The word “yeitzer” has the numerical value of 300. G‑d is fire (Devarim 4:24) and so is his Torah (Jeremiah 23:29). The Hebrew word for fire — “eish” (אש) — numerically adds up to 301, as does “rofecha” (רפאך) — “your healer.” Thus, the fire of Torah (301) is stronger and nullifies the “yeitzer” (300). Consequently, through Torah study and observance, we merit “rofecha” (301) — a healing from Hashem.

(נחל קדומים)

"ויראו בני ישראל ויאמרו איש אל אחיו מן הוא כי לא ידעו מה הוא ויאמר משה אלהם הוא הלחם אשר נתן ה' לכם לאכלה"
“The Children of Israel saw it, and they said one to another, ‘It is mann,’ for they did not know what it was. Moshe said to them, ‘This is the bread which G‑d has given you to eat.’” (16:15)

QUESTION: Why did they name it “mann” if they were unsure what it was ?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Ta’anit 24a) relates that when the gabba’ei tzedakah (people in charge of charity collecting) would see Elazar of Birta, they would run away because he would donate everything he had. Once he went to the market to buy a wedding gift for his daughter. When the gabba’ei tzedakah tried to avoid him, as he ran after them and asked what cause they were collecting for. They told him that they were raising money for a poor bride and groom, so he gave them all his money but one coin, with which he bought some wheat. He put the wheat in his storeroom and went to the Beit Midrash to learn.

When his wife came home, she asked her daughter, “What did your father bring?” She replied, “Whatever he brought is in the storeroom.” They were unable to open the door because the storeroom was filled with wheat from corner to corner, so his daughter ran to the Beit Midrash and excitedly told him, “Come see what the G‑d who loves you did.” He immediately said, “I forbid you to use it for anything more than your bare necessities.” Rashi explains that he was harsh to his daughter because he realized that the wheat had multiplied miraculously and it is forbidden for a person to derive benefit from a miracle.

When the Jews went out in the morning and saw on the ground “something fine and scaly,” they did not know what it was. Puzzled, one said to the other, “Undoubtedly, this is something which was derived through a miracle.” Therefore, they called it “mann” (מן) which is the abbreviation for “ma’aseh nissim” (מעשה נסים) “something made miraculously” — and they resolved not to benefit from it.

Moshe told them, “This is the bread which Hashem has given you to eat — since in the wilderness there are no means of obtaining food, without this bread from Heaven your lives are in jeopardy. In a case of mortal danger it is permitted to benefit from a miracle.”

(בית יעקב)

"ויאמרו איש אל אחיו מן הוא כי לא ידעו מה הוא ויאמר משה אלהם הוא הלחם אשר נתן ה' לאכלה"
“They said one to another, ‘It is mann,’ for they did not know what is was. Moshe said to them, ‘This is the bread G‑d has given you to eat.’” (16:15)

QUESTION: What more did they know about the mann after Moshe had spoken than they knew before?

ANSWER: When the Jews first saw the mann, they were in doubt as to what berachah to make over it. Bread requires “hamotzei,” and cake mezonot.”

The word mann (מן) means “food,” and is also an acronym for “Mah Nevareich?” (מה נברך) — “What blessing should we recite?” Upon seeing the mann, they said one to another “mann hu” — “obviously it is food.” However, “Mah nevareich” — “What blessing should we recite?” — “ki lo yadu” — “because they did not know” — "מ'ה' הוא?" — “is it המוציא or מזונות?”

Moshe said to them, “Hu halechem” — “It is bread which Hashem gave you from Heaven — and since it does not grow from the ground, you should make the blessing Hamotzi lechem min hashamayim’ — ‘who brings forth bread from Heaven.’ ”

(בני יששכר שבתות מאמר ג' סי' ג')

"ובני ישראל אכלו את המן ארבעים שנה"
“And the Children of Israel ate the manna forty years.” (16:35)

QUESTION: In the wilderness, all the needs of the Jewish people were provided by Hashem. Food came from Heaven, and their clothing grew with them. How was one able to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah (helping those in need)?

ANSWER: The manna that the Jews received in the wilderness tasted like the particular food each eater had in mind (Yoma 75a). A poor person had never tasted expensive foods, so the tzedakah of a rich person was to recommend to a poor person what to have in mind while eating so that his palate would enjoy hitherto untasted delicacies.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר, דברים)

"ויבא עמלק וילחם עם ישראל"
Amalek came and fought with the Jews.” (17:8)

QUESTION: How was Amalek able to attack the Jews when they were protected from all sides with ananei hakavod — Clouds of Glory?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash Tanchuma (Parshat Teitze 10), some members of the tribe of Dan worshipped idols which they took with them from Egypt. The clouds cast out these people, and thus, they were vulnerable to attack. Moshe instructed Yehoshua “choose anashim — strong and G‑d fearing people so that their merits will aid them” (Rashi), and fight Amalek on behalf of these Jews.

From this we can learn a lesson of great importance: Even when a Jew has stooped, G‑d forbid, to the extent of worshipping idols, it is incumbent even on tzaddikim to do everything possible to help save him and return him to the Jewish fold.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"א)

"ויאמר משה אל יהושע בחר לנו אנשים וצא הלחם בעמלק...ומשה אהרן וחור עלו ראש הגבעה"
“Moshe said to Yehoshua, ‘Choose people for us to go do battle with Amalek’...Moshe, Aharon and Chur ascended to the top of the hill.” (17:9-10)

QUESTION: Why was it necessary to have a team consisting of Moshe, Aharon, Yehoshua, and Chur to fight Amalek?

ANSWER: Under normal circumstances, when the Jewish people behave properly, Amalek is unable to attack them. However, he attacked the Jews in the city of Rephidim, whose name indicates two reasons for their vulnerability to attack:

1) “Ripu atzman midivrei Torah” — their involvement in Torah weakened” (Sanhedrin 106a). 2) “Pirud” — lack of unity (see Keli Yakar).

The first letters of the names “Aharon,” “Chur,” “Yehoshua,” and “Moshe” form the acronym for “achim” (אחים) — “brothers.” Moshe’s call to the Jewish people was to act as brothers, live in brotherly harmony, and be united in the study of Torah and observance of mitzvot. This would assure that Amalek would be unable to penetrate the Jewish camp.

(ילקוט ראובני)

"ויאמר כי יד על כס י-ה מלחמה לה' בעמלק מדר דר"
“And he said: ‘The hand upon the throne of G‑d; G‑d maintains war against Amalek from generation to generation.’” (17:16)

QUESTION: Why is Hashem so angry at Amalek that He commands us to wipe out his remembrance entirely?

ANSWER: The Jews who left Egypt witnessed the glory of Hashem and the miracles He performed. This brought them to the highest level of emunah (faith in Hashem). Amalek’s attack on the Jewish people was not merely intended to destroy them physically, but to detach them from Hashem spiritually.

The name “Amalek” has the numerical value of 240, which is the same numerical value as “safeik” (ספק) — “doubt.” Amalek wanted to chill the Jewish people’s enthusiasm for Hashem by putting doubts in their minds about Hashem. Since Amalek is our greatest adversary, Hashem swore He will not rest till he is eradicated. Whenever a Jew has doubts about Yiddishkeit, Amalek is at work.

(כתר שם טוב, הוספות סי' צ"ג)