Naaleh.com teacher Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg presents the following dvar Torah on this weeks Parsha.
In this week’s parsha the Torah writes (13,18) that Am Yisroel left Mitzrayim “chamushim.” What exactly does this word mean? Rashi quotes several pshatim, and one pshat is that they were armed, they were carrying weapons. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l raises the following question. It seems to be a little strange that they were carrying weapons with them. Everything that has been happening to Am Yisroel has been b’derech neis, has been miraculous. Am Yisroel is in the midst of the ultimate experience of neis nigleh, miraculous events. So why should they bring weapons with them? Hashem was obviously aware that He was going to fight the battles for Am Yisroel. Hashem knew that Am Yisroel did not “need” their weapons, so why did they bring them? That is the question Rav Moshe raises.
Rav Moshe explains that this is a “chidush gadol” which carries an important message for Am Yisroel then, as well as for us nowadays. Hashem wanted to teach Am Yisroel that a neis, a miracle, is not limited only to when Am Yisroel does nothing and our enemies fall before us. Rather, Am Yisroel has to know that even when we put in the effort and we do our “hishtadlus,” still all of our accomplishments and all of our success come from Hashem. Hashem is the “Ish milchama;” Hashem fights our battles. Therefore, Hashem wanted us to take our weapons with us, so that when there would be a battle, we could make use of them, while still recognizing that our victory comes from Hashem. Even when we do fight and the victory does not appear to be overtly miraculous, we know Hashem is guiding our success[i].
We have discussed in the past the concept of neis nister, hidden miracles. Hashem sometimes governs Am Yisroel with a neis nigleh, an overt miracle where Hashem works outside the ordinary laws of nature. But most of the time Hashem governs us through neis nistar, hidden miracles, where Hashem works within the laws of nature. And one challenge we have is to recognize that the natural events we experience are really neis nistar governed by Hashem. One of the messages of neis nigleh is that Am Yisroel is supposed to learn from the neis nigleh that all of nature is really from Hashem as well. If Hashem can change nature, that means Hashem controls nature. And if Hashem controls nature, that means when events and natural phenomena run “naturally,” they are really being governed by Hashem- it is a neis nistar.[ii] For example, several times in history Hashem has caused the sun to stand still in the sky and not set normally. From these exceptional cases, we are supposed to appreciate that when the sun rises and sets normally, that is actually a direct neis nistar from Hashem.
With this yesod of neis nistar in mind, it seems to me that Rav Moshe here is developing a very deep idea. Am Yisroel is in the midst of a completely neis nigleh experience; we have just witnessed the makos, and we have just witnessed the ultimate makah- makas bechoros. We have the Clouds of Glory and the Pillar of Fire guiding us as we leave Mitzrayim. We will soon experience krias Yam Suf, the ultimate neis nigleh. And in the midst of that neis nigleh existence, Hashem begins teaching us the idea of neis nistar. As you leave Mitzrayim, take your weapons with you. That will teach that you have to do your hishtadlus, you’re going to ‘fight’. But, still you must learn and know all of the success is coming from Me. Am Yisroel recognized that their entire existence depends on Hashem. They saw that in a very clear way. So at that moment, at the beginning of the Yetziah, the leaving, from Mitzrayim, Hashem begins the education process of teaching us about neis nistar as well. I think this is a deep message which comes out of Rav Moshe’s explanation on this posuk.[iii]
We should all work on recognizing the Yad Hashem in the natural world. All of teva is really a neis nistar from Hashem.
[i] Rav Moshe then asks that according to this approach, why didn’t we bring food as well? Why didn’t we bring food in order to show our own hishtadlus, before Hashem does any sort of miracle, like sending us the man? Rav Moshe explains that it would have been impossible b’derech hatevah, in a natural way, to bring enough food for such a long trip. So, we had no choice but to rely on a miracle. We only took the leftovers of the matzos. We performed a mitzvah with the matzos, so we cherished the matzah, and therefore brought the extras with us. However, when it comes to a military battle we are able to do some sort of hishtadlus, so we were supposed to bring our weapons.
[ii] We have discussed previously that the gematria of hatevah (86) equals Elokim (Remember that in the gematria, replace the letter ‘kuf’ with the letter ‘hei’.)
[iii] This mehalech blends well with the famous Ramban in Pzarshas Bo. The Ramban develops the idea that when we experience neis nigleh, we are supposed to learn that all of teva is really a neis nistar from Hashem. Rav Moshe’s approach parallels the Ramban.