Parshat Beshalach- A Dive of Faith

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Part of this week’s d’var torah features a slightly controversial view of Anti-Zionism (specifically Satmar Chasidism) based on a teaching by Rav Yissachar Teichtel in “Em Habanim Semecha.” This was not written to offend anyone’s religious or political beliefs and leanings, but just as a different perspective on a specific sect of Judiasm through the prism of this week’s parsha. Please not share this d’var torah with anyone who would be offended by what is written. Thank you.

(וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה, מַה תִּצְעַק אֵלָי דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִסָּעוּ” (שמות י”ד: ט”ו”

The beginning of our פרשה finds בני ישראל cornered at the Sea of Reeds with the sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other side. בני ישראל were extremely frightened, and according to רמב”ן, reacted in two different, almost contradictory ways; half of them prayed to השם to save them, and the other half complained to משה for taking them out of Egypt under false pretenses. משה responds to the second group first by giving them a pep talk  reminding them of G-d’s strength.(“וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל הָעָם, אַל-תִּירָאוּ הִתְיַצְּבוּ וּרְאוּ אֶת יְשׁוּעַת ה'”) Then, something very unique happens:

“וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, מַה-תִּצְעַק אֵלָי- G-d said to Moshe: why are you crying out to me? Go!” G-d tells משה, and through him, the first group of בנ”י, to stop praying to Him, and get going. This directive should be more than a little confusing to us- isn’t the Jewish people’s first line of defense our תפילות. As דוד המלך wrote in תהילים פרק כ’, which we say almost every day, “אלה ברכב ואלה בסוסים ואנחנו בשם ה’ אלקנו נזכיר- They (our enemies) have their chariots and horses, but we (the Jewish people) remember and mention G-d’s name.” Why would G-d tell us to specifically ignore this?

Rashi answers that הקדוש ברוך הוא’s message here to the Jewish people is that, withזכות אבות, they had almost enough merit to cross the Sea. All they needed to do was enter the Sea and add the merit of their faith, and between this זכות and זכות אבות, they would be on the level to merit a miracle to save them from the Egyptian Army.

This idea is expounded even further in אם הבנים שמחה, a famous ספר on Religious Zionism by Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel. Rav Teichtel quotes the שפתי חכמים, who teaches that the splitting of the sea would only have come about through the Jews’ faith in Hashem- no matter how much זכות אבות they had, if בני ישראל didn’t enter the ים סוף, there couldn’t have been a קריעת ים סוף. This leap of faith was what Hashem was referring to when He said “מה תצעק אלי”- He was saying that right now, בנ”י’s safety couldn’t come through תפילה, but only through action- “דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו.”

Rav Teichtel takes this a step further by quoting an idea of the Rambam in his philosophical work Moreh Nevuchim: “כל אמונה שאין בה מעשה אין לה קיום-Any faith without action is not lasting faith.” In other words, true faith can only come through action. This idea is shown explicitly in our פרשה: Previously, we saw that “ובני ישראל יוצאים ביד רמה- The Jewish People left Egypt in strength.” This strength was their belief and faith in G-d, which was at its peak after He took them out with אותות ומופתים. However, this faith hadn’t been tested yet, and as a result, בנ”י panicked at the Sea and many of them quickly lost faith. To restore their faith and take it to a new level (that of אמונה קיימת), G-d commanded them to go into the Sea, even before it was split (“ויבאו בני ישראל בתוך הים- The Israelites went into the midst of the Sea- before it was dry land), and only once they entered, G-d split the sea leaving dry land in the middle. This test of their faith gave בנ”י a chance to elevate their belief in G-d to a new level; through their actions, and, as we see at the end of the perek; “וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בה’ וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ- They believed in G-d and Moshe His servant”- even the ones who had previously doubted משה had faith in him and in G-d.

Rav Teichtel continues that this same idea applies to our belief in the משיח. Among the 13 עיקרי אמונה of Judaism that were originally taught by the רמב”ם, which many say every single day after davening שחרית, the twelfth is “אני מאמין באמונה שלמה בביאת המשיח ואף על פי שהתמהמה אם כל זה אחכה לו בכל יום- I have complete faith that the משיח will come, even if I must wait every day of my life, I know he will come.” While all Jews seemingly believe in this, we can see from the lesson of אמונה at the ים סוף that this isn’t necessarily true. We have learned that belief itself was not sufficient for the Jews of the Exodus- why should it be any different now? We must follow the example of the Jews at the Sea of Reeds and take our belief in the משיח a step father by taking a leap of faith and moving to ארץ ישראל (or at least taking concrete steps towards עליה), because without this action, our אמונה in the משיח is not complete and we cannot say the above עיקר of אמונה with complete honesty.

Conversely, one who refuses to take action and instead chooses to wait for the משיח to come to him to take him to ארץ ישראל shows that he does not truly believe in the משיח! His faith, merely external, causes him to fool himself that he has faith, but in truth, he is like בני ישראל who left Egypt with strength in their faith only to discover how shallow their faith was once confronted with a challenge. However, one who takes action shows true faith in the משיח and once he strengthens his belief like this, השם Himself will help him as He saved בנ”י at the ים סוף. Rav Teichtel concludes that we should take a lesson from “דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו” and take concrete steps to begin our journey to ארץ ישראל so that, just as בני ישראל were saved in the first גאולה, we too will also be saved with our גאולה very speedily.1

It was reported on Sunday that Rav Zalman Leib Teitlbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, promised to pay $100 in cash to anyone who agreed not to vote in the upcoming election, and that anyone who was interested would need to deposit their ID card and driving license with Satmar representatives on election day.2 This attitude, besides for violating Israeli Election Law, reminds us of the Satmar approach to the state of Israel- a complete lack of faith in the Jewish government. This is completely unfounded, because the parliamentary system of Israel gives any faction a chance to have a say in policies, and if the Satmar Hasidim would participate in politics as the rest of the Jews in Israel do, they could have a big influence in getting rid of some of the policies that they theoretically disagree with. Instead, they reject the idea of a Jewish state entirely, much as the Palestinian Arabs do, and use their influence to disrupt a very crucial election in Israel, very much against the שפתי חכמים as well as Ravs Elyashiv, Shteinman, Kook and many others who signed a document in 1949 declaring Israel the אתחתלא דגאולא. By taking this position, the Satmar Hasidim are showing that they don’t believe in the משיח as explained by the ספר אם הבנים שמחה, and therefore do not properly believe in the 12th עיקר אמונה. According to the Rambam (פרוש משניות סנהדרין פרק י’), one who does not believe in one of the עיקרי אמונה is a כופר בעיקר and does not properly believe in G-d.

I believe that the Satmar Hasidim could learn a lesson from the story of Rav Teichtel, the author of אם הבנים שמחה. Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel was born to a family of well-known Sanz Hasidim in Hungary, and in 1921, he moved to Pishtian, Czechoslovakia, where he established the Moriah Yeshiva. As the World Zionist Congress began to ponder a Jewish state, Rav Teichtel was among the many rabanim of Europe who believed that they were not right to do so, and he vehemently protested the idea of proactively embracing the גאולה. This all changed however, when Czechoslovakia was invaded in 1938 by the Nazis. Rav Teichtel and his family were able to hide from the Nazis and eventually escape Czechoslovakia, but not before he witnessed the atrocities that the Nazis committed onto his fellow Jews.  Seeing these horrors led Rav Teichtel to change his mind on Zionism- he realized that since the Jewish people were being systematically slaughtered and there was no גאולה forthcoming, it was a sign that they were doing something wrong just as in our פרשה, G-d tells the Jewish people that their inactivity was wrong. Rav Teichtel understood that the Jewish people’s mistake was not returning to their homeland, and he realized that the rabanim of that time, who were warning their charges not to get involved in Zionism, were endangering those Jews by encouraging them to stay in Nazi Europe. He decided to write the ספר אם הבנים שמחה to tell the world of the importance of moving to Israel, and to warn them of staying in Europe. In the end it was too late because Rav Teichtel and his family were sent to Auschwitz when Hungary was invaded by the Nazis in 1944, but his legacy still lives on among Religious Zionists to this day, and his story serves as a stark reminder of the cost of waiting too long to take advantage of an opportunity to return to our roots.

With Hashem’s help, our misled Jewish brothers, many of whom are almost at the level of תינוק שנשבה, will learn from the lesson of Rav Teichtel and see that they too are being misled by their leaders, so that, through the end of their כפירה, we will see the continued success of the אתחלתא דגואלה and the continued קיבוץ גליות until one day, when enough of our brothers have taken the leap of faith to have true אמונה in the משיח, we will bring the גאולה very soon. Shabbat Shalom.

Sources:

  1. אם הבנים שמחה quoted above
  2. Jerusalem Post: Satmar Rebbe; Voting Forbidden According to the Torah