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Beshalach |  13 Shevat 5776  |  January 23rd, 2016  |  Issue 635

This newsletter is dedicated in memory of Yisrael Chaim ben Chana z"l
Mazal Tov to David Cooper, President of TMT Memphis, on the engagement of his son, Ariel

   Rav Baruch Weintraub

Former Rosh Kollel in Toronto (2011-2014)

Currently Rabbi at Kehillat Mevazer Tzion, Tel Mond and Ram in Yeshivat Orot Shaul, Kfar Batya

Whales in the Red Sea

"And Egypt pursed them, and entered [the sea] after them, all of Pharaoh's horses, his chariots and charioteers, to the middle of the sea." (Sh'mot 14:23)

This sentence raises a serious question: How did the Egyptians enter the middle of the sea without realizing the danger they were courting? Did they not witness the plagues in Egypt and know the might of G-d? And now that they saw Him split Yam Suf, should they not have worried that the sea might return to its former state?

A straightforward answer is presented in an earlier passage (Sh'mot 14:17), "I will harden the heart of Egypt and they will enter after them". G-d hardens the heart of Egypt, and so they do not fear entry into the sea. But what is the meaning of this 'hardening of the heart'? Does G-d meddle directly in Pharaoh's thoughts, or does it happen in some other way? Of course, this question is subsumed in the broader question of Pharaoh's freedom of choice from the time G-d began to harden his heart, during the plagues, through the 'strengthening' of his heart mentioned here. Presumably, one cannot punish a sinner who lacks the ability to choose freely, so why was Pharaoh punished?

Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 6) explains that Pharaoh was only punished for his earlier sins. Other early commentators, including S'forno, have suggested that G-d did not force Pharaoh to keep the Jews as slaves but only strengthened his ability to withstand the emotional toll of the plagues he suffered, so that he could repent independently.

Perhaps one could suggest a third approach, though. In Moby Dick (Chapter 41), Herman Melville described Captain Ahab's insane desire to catch the whale, writing,
"The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. Ahab ... pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."

The insanity of Ahab and Pharaoh flowed from the human inclination to focus on matters of minor significance instead of the big picture. When this inclination evolved to dominate their being, it became obsession, and they unwittingly lost the whole while battling for a fraction. This is the charge of Pharaoh's advisers, "Do you not yet know that Egypt is lost?" This hardening of Pharaoh's heart is not nullification of his freedom; G-d only allowed his natural psychological vulnerability to sway him.

G-d set up the war with Pharaoh as a matter of principle – Pharaoh's lack of legitimate ownership of G-d's Jews - and Pharaoh homed in on that to the exclusion of all else. Pharaoh believed that freeing his slaves was not an ethical obligation and he could not be compelled to do so. He failed to perceive a greater picture: G-d directs the world; G-d had chosen to remove the Jews from Egypt; Man is created in the image designed by G-d and ought not be enslaved to another. Pharaoh only perceived the details he chose to perceive, and in the end he saw the dry land in the centre but not the water waiting to close upon him. Even if he saw the water, perhaps he told himself, "To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." (Moby Dick, Chap. 135)

And so G-d 'hardened' the heart of Pharaoh. Hashem could have chosen another way to remove the Jews from Egypt; perhaps a dialogue could have led to peaceful emancipation of the Jews. Instead, Hashem chose the pedagogic path of a battle over principle, and Pharaoh stood to defend his principles, and so Egypt came to know "that I am G-d" (Shemot 14:4),

A world view that does not include the Will of G-d is flawed, and must lead to ethical error, and eventually to the depths of a sea of darkness and hatred. As the people who survived Yam Suf, we should always elevate ourselves when determining our path. We must take into consideration not only fragments of reality, but also the root principle that emerged with us from Yam Suf: "G-d will reign forever." (Sh'mot 15:18)


TMT Spotlight:
Once a Shaliach, Always a Shaliach!

Though he only returned from his Shlichut in Sydney this summer, former Torah MiTzion Shaliach Avichai Berkovitz is already leading an amazing new project! It is now summer vacation in the southern hemisphere, and many high school students take advantage of the break to travel and and have fun. Filling in that gap, Avichai organized a two-week trip in Israel for a group of 12th grade girls from both Sydney and South Africa.

The aim of the program was recognizing the unique and special relationship each one of us has with Israel, through learning Torah and a range of other experiences. The program included a three-day wilderness trip, getting to know Israeli culture by being hosted by Israeli families, a week of learning Torah at Midreshet Harova in the Old City, and much more.

The program was a huge success and the girls are already planning their return to Israel after finishing high school for a Shana B'Aretz program.

Daniel Green, another former Shaliach in Sydney (2013-2014), also took part in the program. He guided the girls and served as the group's armed guard.
Notably, much of the funds for the trip were raised by Avichai himself from private donors, while rabbis and organizations helped on a voluntary basis, making the trip affordable for anyone that wanted to participate.
Around The World
Torah MiTzion's Shlichim in Sydney visiting New Zealand
Tu B'Shvat family learning night in KTM Montreal
The Shlichim in Memphis participated in NCSY's JSU program at White Station HS
Another succesful activity for univeristy students in Munich

     Arik Speaker                                   In cooperation with:

'Lilmod' Coordinator and Head of  European Desk in Torah MiTzion

The statue of the artist Emilio Mogilner "The Hill-Keeper" was erected in Ness Ziona in 2001. It symbolizes the spirit of nature conservation and natural open spaces. Another three similar statues are scattered across the country. The largest of them all stands 17 meters high and weighs 450 tons. It is called "The Guardian of the Negev" and is located at the entrance to the Ramat Hovav industrial zone.
The idea is that the statue supposedly protects nature from harm caused by people want to exploit it. The statue was built by Mogilner day.

The beginning of the city of Ness Ziona was in a barter transaction that took place in Odessa between a Chabad Hasid who was also a member of the 'Hovevei Zion' Movement named Reuben Lehrer and a German Christian. Lehrer exchanged his home in Odessa in return for an area of ​​approximately 2,000 hectares in Israel. The deal was made prior to the buyer ever seeing the land, and he was convinced that it was near Jerusalem and in excellent condition. Only after his arrival in Israel with his family did he discover the disrepair of the property and the great distance from The Holy City.

One of the unique characteristics of this city is an old mosque which was converted into a synagogue the local Arabs left.

The name 'Ness Ziona' derives from a quote from Jeremiah:
"שאו-נס ציונה העיזו אל-תעמדו"


Yasher Koach to 

Tzvi Klugerman
for providing the
correct answer


 Where was this photo taken?

Please send answers to -

The answer, further information about this location, as well as the first person to recognize this site will be 
published in next week's edition.


Torah MiTzion was established in 1995 with the goal of strengthening Jewish communities around the globe and infusing them with the love for Torah, the Jewish People and the State of Israel. 


Over the past twenty years Torah MiTzion's shlichim have inspired and enriched their host communities through a wide range of high impact 
formal and informal 
educational programs.

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Our friend Benjy Singer has a very useful website,, which contains accurate and fresh information of what's going on in the Religious Anglo Community in Israel.