The parshios in the beginning of Sefer Shemos discuss the exile of Bnai Yisroel in Mitzrayim and relate to us how Bnai Yisroel went from rags to riches and from slavery to freedom. Last year before Shavuos, I shared with you from an essay found in the sefer Sifsei Chaim, by Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, zt”l, in which he discusses the concept of emunah, faith. Faith is mentioned in three separate verses in these parshios. The first verse, which refers to Bnai Yisroel while they were still in Mitzrayim, states, “Vaya’amen ha’am vayishm’u - And the nation believed and they listened.” The second reference to emunah is at krias Yam Suf, the splitting of the Red Sea, where the pasuk states, “Vaya’aminu bashem uv’Moshe avdo - And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe, his servant.” The last reference to emunah is at matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. The verse states, “V’gam b’cha ya’aminu l’olam - And also they will believe in you forever.” There are many meforshim, commentaries, who discuss the reason for these three separate references to emunah. Based on a Ramchal, the Sifsei Chaim explains that there are three levels of emunah; the highest level was achieved when Klal Yisrael saw the revelation of Hashem and witnessed the biggest sound and light show ever. Rabbi Friedlander explains that all three verses are needed, because initially many people believed in Moshe, but the level of some of Bnai Yisroel was still limited. By the time they reached the sea, Bnai Yisroel had already witnessed ten plagues; thus, their belief in Hashem had increased substantially. When Bnai Yisroel received the Torah, they had risen from the 49th level of impurity to the level of “total” belief in Hashem. I would like to expand on this dvar Torah based on a vort that I saw from the Slonimer Rebbe, zt”l.
Every Rosh Chodesh, we recite the verse in Hallel, “Hayam raah vayanos - The sea saw and it fled.” The Midrash tells us that when the sea saw the coffin of Yosef Hatzadik, it split. The Nesivos Shalom explains that the sea learned a lesson from the life of Yosef. There was no one who had a more stressful life than Yosef; he was sold by his brothers, mourned by his father, charged by the wife of Potifar, and then put in jail. Only after years of struggle did he rise from the dirt to assume the greatest position of leadership in the land. Rather than being angry and taking revenge on his brothers, Yosef was acutely aware that all that took place was directed by Hashem. Hashem had placed him in Mitzrayim, where he could help his family through a difficult famine. The sea split after it learned from the life of Yosef that all of our exiles as difficult as they may be are all divinely inspired and executed.
Bnai Yisroel suffered a miserable exile in Mitzrayim with indescribable suffering. The life story of Yosef Hatzaddik teaches us that just as the dark clouds of Yosef’s life had a silver lining, the same can be said about the exile of Bnai Yisroel in Mitzrayim, since it was eventually revealed to all that their suffering in slavery was part of the plan to purify them as a people, split the sea for them, and give them the Torah.
The verse at kabbalas haTorah states, “V’gam b’cha ya’aminu l’olam - and also they will believe in you forever.” “Forever” includes the current bitter and difficult spiritual exile. Yosef’s life story and experience in Mitzrayim offer us a template of faith to help us understand that all of our trials and travails are part of the master plan of Hashem, and that these challenges will ultimately lead us to the final redemption of Mashiach. I BELIEVE!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman