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Parshat B'shalach - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'

1. As you read the opening pasuk of Parshat Beshalach (13:17), attempt to explain the phrase "ki karov hu".
Did you translate "ki" - 'because', or 'even though'? How would this affect how you understand this pasuk?
For a discussion on this topic, see first Ibn Ezra (aroch) and Chizkuni. Note the other examples that they bring. Then see Ramban.

2. In your opinion, when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, did the people know for sure to where they were going?
Did they realize that they were supposed to 'stop on the way' at Har Chorev? If so, for what purpose: to thank God; or to receive the Torah; or both?
If possible, support your answer with psukim.
How would your answer to this question affect the way you understand Bnei Yisrael's behavior in the desert?

3.When Bnei Yisrael first left Egypt, for how long (in your opinion) did they expect to be traveling for in the desert (until reaching the Promised Land)?
[How long of a journey is it from Egypt to Canaan? (Relate to Devarim 1:2.)]
See Shmot 16:1-3. Based on these psukim, what conclusion can we reach re: the food supply that Bnei Yisrael took with them for their journey? Can you explain why?

4. Review 14:1-4, noting how God instructs Bnei Yisrael to do a maneuver. Does this appear to be a trick? In your opinion, does there appear to be a 'moral' problem with this?
See Ibn Ezra (aroch) on 14:1 and Ibn Ezra (katzar) or 14:8 for an interesting perspective!

5. As you review "shirat ha'yam" (15:1-19), note how just about all of the psukim describe the events of how the sea split and how Egyptians were killed and Bnei Yisrael were saved. However, towards the end of the "shira" [song] we find a slightly different topic.
With this is mind, attempt to explain 15:17. How does this pasuk relate to the rest of the "shira"?
In a similar manner, attempt to explain 15:18!
Finally, see 15:19. In your opinion, is this pasuk part of the "shira"? If not, what is it doing here? - For an interesting discussion re: this question, see Ramban on 15:19. [See also Chizkuni on 15:19 for a very novel approach.]

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)

1.In you opinion, what was the purpose of "Kriyat Yam Suf":

    a) For Bnei Yisrael to recognize God?
    b) For the Egyptians to recognize God?
    c) For both (a) and (b)?
    d) For a different reason?
    [Support your answer with psukim.]
Make sure that according to your answer, you can explain why the 'Ten Plagues' were not sufficient to accomplish this same purpose.
If you have time, answer the Parshanut section - question #1. Relate this to your answer to the above question.
See also Ibn Ezra on 14:13 for an interesting perspective on why Bnei Yisrael didn't 'fight back'.

2. After crossing the Red Sea, Bnei Yisrael finally began their travel into the desert. Based on their original request that Pharaoh allow them a three day journey to worship their God, where 'should' Bnei Yisrael now travel to? For what purpose?
[Relate to 3:12,18 & 5:1-3.]
Where do Bnei Yisrael arrive at after their first three days of travel? What happens there? How (and why) is this significant?
When do they finally arrive at Har Chorev? What happens there? Did they actually bring korbanot there? Relate to 24:5-8.

3. Note how many situations of peril arise in Parshat Beshalach whereupon Bnei Yisrael complain to God. In your opinion, do these situations arise by chance, or are they intentional (i.e. are they part of God's plan)? If so, what was the purpose of each?
Does God expect Bnei Yisrael not to complain when there is a lack of water or food?

4. Chart the events that transpire in Parshat Beshalach, as Bnei Yisrael travel towards Har Sinai. Is there a pattern? A purpose?
See if you can find the word "nisayon" (or similar) in any or all of these events. If so, can you explain why?

5. The famous story of Moshe hitting the rock begins when Bnei Yisrael are encamped in Rfidim (17:1).
To the best of your recollection (don't look at the psukim yet), was the rock that Moshe hit also in Rfidim? If not, where was it? Does the entire nation gather when he hits the rock? If not, who is with him at that time?
Now, read 17:5-7, and answer the above questions once again. Can you explain why Moshe is instructed to hit a rock in Chorev instead of a rock in Refidim?
How did the water get from the rock to the camp in Rfidim? If you were in Rfidim and thirsty, would you have waited for the water to come to you? What do you think most of the people did? Does your answer to this question help you understand why, when and where Amalek attacked (see 17:8-16 AND Devarim 25:17- 19). How does your answer to these questions affect your understanding of Har Sinai? ["eyn mayim elah Torah...?"]
[See also Ibn Ezra 17:9 & Devarim 9:21!]

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut

1. In 14:9-12, Bnei Yisrael - with their 'backs to the sea' and Egypt attacking - cry out to God for help. Moshe responds to Bnei Yisrael as follows (14:13):

"Do not fear, stand strong and witness God's deliverance today - for in the way which you see Mitzrayim today - lo tosifu lo'rotam ad olam - you will never see them again..."
As you read this pasuk inside the Chumash (noting its context), attempt to determine whether it is a promise or a commandment? If it is a promise, is it a promise for only this generation, or for all generations (read pasuk carefully)?
How did you explain the word "derech" in this pasuk?
Then, see Rashi on 14:13.- How does he explain this pasuk?
Next, see Ramban (on 14:13), quoting Chazal. Note that he claims that this pasuk is indeed to be understand as a commandment!
Can you explain, according to Chazal, precisely what this commandment entails? Does it apply only to Egypt?
Would you consider this interpretation as "pshat"?
Explain why yes and why not.
Next, read Parshat Ha'Melech in Sefer Devarim (17:14-20), noting especially 17:16:
"He (the king) must not gather too many horses (i.e. for chariots & calvary to strengthen his army), and he must not return the people to mitzrayimin order to add horses, FOR God has already warned you - lo tosifu la'shuv b'derech ha'zeh od - you must not go back this way again."
How does this statement relate textually and thematically to the psukim above at Kriyat Yam Suf (Shmot 14:13)?
Attempt to explain how Chazal's interpretation of 14:13 as a commandment may be based on this pasuk in Devarim.
Next, read Devarim 28:68 (noting its context, it's the final pasuk of the Tochacha in Ki-tavo). How do you understand the phrase "ba'derech asher amarti - lo tosifu la'shuv b'derech ha'zeh od ..." -
What is the meaning of "ba'derch" in this phrase?
[Will those who will be 'deported' to Egypt want someone to buy them? / read 26:68 carefully]
Does this pasuk support Chazal's pirush in Shmot 14:13?
[See also Yeshayahu 31:1-3 & Yerushalmi Succah V.1. (23a)]

2. In 17:14, God instructs Moshe to write down the story of what Amalek did in a sefer. In your opinion, what "sefer" is this, and what was the purpose in writing it down?
Also, why must he 'put it' in Yehoshua's ears? [See Rashi!] First, see Ibn Ezra (aroch & katzar) re: which book this is. [See also Chizkuni.]
Then see Ramban, noting how and why he disagrees.
Finally, see Seforno, for a very interesting explanation!

3. Read 15:25 in the context of 15:23-26.
What laws do you think "chok u'misphat" refers to?

Now see Rashi.
How does he explain each?

Next see Ramban.
Why are his reasons for not accepting Rashi's pirush?
How does he explain?
Would you consider Ramban's pirush closer to "pshat" than Rashi's?

Finally see Rashbam.
How is his pirush totally different than Rashi and Ramban's?
[How does he solve the problem of what specific laws these refer to?]

See also Ibn Ezra.
Is his pirush the same as Rashbam?