SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, February 4, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of
Miriam Heller z"l
whose yahrzeit falls on the seventh of Shvat,
by her niece, Vivian Singer.

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            We read in Parashat Beshalach that as Benei Yisrael stood frightened at the shores of the Yam Suf, trapped between the sea and the pursuing Egyptian army, Moshe turned to the people and said, “Do not fear; stand in place and behold the Lord’s salvation which He will be performing for you today, for the way you see the Egyptians today – you will never seem them again, forever” (14:13).

            The Maggid of Duvna, in Ohel Yaakov, offers a clever and insightful reading of this verse.  He notes that fear undermines a person’s capacity to observe his surroundings.  When a person flees from danger, the Maggid writes, he is not likely to notice a precious item dropped by its owner along the road which he is legally entitled to take.  Fear causes us to focus our attention solely on avoiding the danger or perceived danger, and so we are incapable during that period of noticing anything around us that is not related to the source of our fear.  This is why Moshe told the people at the shores of the sea not to be afraid.  He wanted them to pay close attention to the miracle that was unfolding – “behold the Lord’s salvation.”  The Maggid boldly suggests that the final clause of the verse, which is generally understood as a promise that Benei Yisrael would never see the Egyptians again, should actually be read to mean that the miracles that would imminently transpire would never be repeated.  Moshe urged the people not to fear so they could focus their attention on the events that would soon unfold, because these events would never repeat themselves, and thus this was their only opportunity to experience them.

            The lesson of the Maggid’s insight, perhaps, is that we must not let our anxieties and concerns about the future divert our attention away from the experiences of the present.  There is much to enjoy and appreciate that we miss due to our burden of worry and fear.  The Maggid of Duvna here urges us to always heed Moshe’s call, “Do not fear; stand in place and behold the Lord’s salvation” – to observe and appreciate the blessings we are given at any moment, recognizing that they will not always be with us.