Category Archives: Beshalach

Liar’s Reward

First posted on the Times of Israel at:

Netziv Exodus: Beshalach

Liar’s Reward

“Falsehood is invariably the child of fear in one form or another.” -Aleister Crowley

The adage of the boy who cried wolf is important and well-known, however, the Netziv has a slightly different take on it.

The nation of Israel has escaped from the centuries of Egyptian slavery. God parted the sea for them, allowing them to miraculously walk on dry land and see the Egyptian military annihilated. The Israelites walk through the desert, find a stream of bitter waters and then Moses is directed to put nearby trees in the water, thereby sweetening the stream and providing water to the entire nation.

However, a chapter later, the Israelites find themselves again without water, but this time the interplay is different. They complain that they have no water. Moses is not impressed by their complaint. Only after they complain does the text say that the people were thirsty. The Netziv on the verse (Exodus 17:3) explains that though they lacked water they complained before they became thirsty. And so, the false complaint of thirst came true. He then expands that whoever fakes a complaint, eventually it will become true.

A person who claims to not have money, will eventually see that fulfilled. A person who lies about his inability to do something, eventually will lose that ability. A boy who cries wolf, not only will he not be believed, but eventually will have his false statement made true and bring a wolf upon himself.

May we be very careful about our claims and statements, lest they become true.

Shabbat Shalom,



To truth-speakers. May only blessings be your reward.

Why Seven Days?

[First posted on The Times of Israel:]

Ibn Ezra Exodus: Beshalach

Why Seven Days?

“Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you don’t let other people spend it for you.” -John Dryden

A seven-day week does not reflect any natural phenomena. As opposed to a day, a lunar month or a solar year, a week is an artificial creation.

Some interesting exceptions to the seven-day week include the Igbo people of Nigeria (4 days), the Javanese of Indonesia (5 days) and the Akans of West Africa (6 days that have been mixed with a 7-day week giving a 42-day cycle).

Historically, the Romans had an 8-day week for a time, until they met the 7-day week which became more popular. Both ancient China and Egypt had a 10-day week. In more modern times, during the excitement of revolution, the French adopted a 10-day week. It lasted for nine and a half years (1793-1802). The Soviets experimented with a 5-day week from 1929-31 and then tried a 6-day week until 1940. None of these counting systems have survived.

Why does almost all of humanity follow a 7-day week? Ibn Ezra claims (Exodus 16:1) that it comes from the Torah. God mandated a 7-day week to remember Creation as well as to remember the Exodus. Curious how the entire world has adopted this Jewish tradition – in most cases without even knowing it.

I wonder what other traditions have permeated the world and which others may still do so?

Shabbat Shalom,



To Jared Diamond and his glorious book Guns, Germs and Steel, where among other things he highlights potential causes as to the fate of societies and civilization.

The Physics of Miracles

Ohr Hachayim Exodus: Beshalach

 The Physics of Miracles

 “A miracle is nothing more or less than this. Anyone who has come into a knowledge of his true identity, of his oneness with the all-pervading wisdom and power, this makes it possible for laws higher than the ordinary mind knows of to be revealed to him.”

 -Ralph Waldo Trine

Miracles, however we understand them, happen for a reason. By looking deeper into the cause and effect of miracles, one might discover that they actually follow certain patterns, are affected by certain principles, even follow certain rules. Below is a start of a list:

  1. Don’t make God work too hard. God prefers to keep certain miracles “private” (i.e. when the prophet Elisha revives the dead boy or when the poor woman receives an abundance of oil, the door is closed in both cases – see II Kings Chapter 4).
  2. Be good. God may perform miracles for those deserving of it (splitting of the Reed Sea – Ohr Hachayim Exodus 14:15).
  3. Learn Torah. God is said to have created the world using the Torah as a “blueprint.” Those who master the Torah may wield some power over creation (Moses mastering the sea – Ohr Hachayim Exodus 14:27).
  4. Knowing the mind of God. God did not command that the Jews refrain from leaving anything over from the daily Manna. It was an innovation Moses introduced, understanding God’s intention. God approved of Moses’ command and performed a miracle to “back him up” whereby worms ate whatever Manna was left over the next day (Ohr Hachayim Exodus 16:19).

There are more rules and regulations as to how miracles work, but this list is a good start: don’t make a show (when not needed), be good, study Torah and know God.

May we all merit seeing miracles every day of our lives.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the miracle of rain. After many relatively dry years, Israel had the wettest January on record (at least 26 days) and it has raised the water-level of the Kinneret (our main reservoir) by 55 centimeters in January. Currently it stands at -213.11 centimeters, which is 11 centimeters below the Kinneret’s red line.

It’s supposed to be tough

Kli Yakar Exodus: Beshalach

It’s supposed to be tough

“S’iz shver tzu zain a Yid” a popular Yiddish saying, meaning “It’s tough to be a Jew,” gave little solace to those confronting whatever difficulties their Judaism brought them. Jewish history is filled with accounts of how tough it is, from harrowing stories of death and destruction to the less dramatic existential issues of Jewish practice.

After the Children of Israel leave Egypt and cross the split sea, they walk in the desert for a few days. Thirsting for water, they are thankful when they reach a stream, only to be further disheartened to find the water bitter, undrinkable. Moses is commanded to take a tree (apparently also bitter) and place it in the stream. Miraculously, this combination turned the water sweet.

The Kli Yakar (Exodus 15:26) believes that God wanted to teach the new nation a particular lesson with their bitter (pun intended) experience. He wanted to teach that He is a healer and that the medicine is not always sweet. The medicine is His Torah and it is filled with challenges and strictures that at first may seem tough, bitter. But just as we must trust our doctors when they prescribe something distasteful, so too, we must trust God that at the end of our following His instructions there will be healing, happiness and a sweet reward.

May we trust the heavenly doctor, learn his prescriptions, and may our ‘medicines’ be as sweet as possible.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the complete and speedy recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon, Arizona. For those who don’t read the news, she was shot in the head at point blank range in an assassination attempt that claimed the lives of six other people. She miraculously survived the shooting, had emergency surgery and is recuperating, so far, fantastically, but with an unknown prognosis. She is in our prayers.

Battle of Amalek

Moses vs. Amalek
Moses supported by Aaron and Hur

Exodus: Beshalach

Battle of Amalek

“The reports are true!” Agag gasped from his perch on top of the low-lying desert mountain. “The Hebrew slaves have truly escaped. I did not realize they were so many! And the gold! I can see them carrying hordes of gold.”

“But they are so numerous,” Ephaz the sorcerer commented. “How can we hope to attack them?”

“We shall wait until the bulk of them have passed,” Agag answered still studying the passing Hebrew masses. “We shall then ambush their rearguard. It will be harder for such a large congregation, with women, children and old ones, to turn around and fight. By then we will have captured a respectable portion of the Egyptian loot.”

“But if the Hebrew god truly destroyed the Egyptian army at the sea,” Ephaz questioned, “perhaps we should proceed with caution?”

“Do you doubt your magical abilities?” Agag looked at Ephaz. “The Egyptian sorcerers and priests had gotten fat and soft. We are warriors. Our gods are with us. We shall be quick and cunning. We shall attack the Hebrews in their weak back. See how they lead with their warriors. They are expecting trouble from the front. They will feel safe once they have passed our position and will not expect an ambush. Do not fear Ephaz. Were you not the one who foresaw their arrival? Did you not cast the bones that determined that today would be the best day to attack?”

“Yes, my liege,” Ephaz answered, puffing up his chest.

“Ready the rest of the sorcerers,” Agag ordered. “I shall signal to the swordsmen below to come around. I want the sorcerers to hit the Hebrews with a full range of spells at the same moment as the swordsmen engage.”

* * *

It was delightfully easy, Agag thought. Fifty talents of gold. Two hundred talents of silver. Countless precious vessels and stones. I did not even lose one man. The Hebrews dropped everything at the first sign of trouble and ran like scared mice. They barely put up a fight, but rather retreated closer to Mount Horev. It was even reported that their leader Moses was so fearful – he was the first one up the mountain.

I will have to go for more. It is simply too easy and too tempting. If we could take so much with just an afternoon’s worth of marauding, what of a whole day or even several days with a weak and passive slave camp to plunder. Agag started to dance, clutching the prize jewels he had kept for himself. Hah! Where was this vaunted Hebrew god? The Egyptians must have truly turned to clay if such a miserable rabble were able to free themselves and take the wealth of Egypt with him. Perhaps we should make an incursion into Egypt itself if it is so weakened?

“It is time my liege,” Ephaz announced as the first rays of the sun appeared through the desert haze.

“Excellent,” Agag rubbed his hands in anticipation. “We shall mount a frontal attack on their position, as planned. I want a ring of warriors surrounding your sorcerers at the center position, and columns of spearmen, swordsmen and archers on the left and right flanks. I shall lead the middle position, with the rest of the camel riders.”

Agag quickly mounted his waiting camel, joined the two dozen riders standing at attention and together they rode to the front and center of the assembled Amalekite army.

“Sons of Amalek!” Agag called out in a booming voice from atop his camel. “You may have thought that we did well yesterday, but what is in store for us today is many times over! I promise you each a talent of gold and a pretty Hebrew slave-girl as well!”

The Amalekite army whistled, laughed and banged their shields together. One soldier called out: “Agag! I want two slaves!”

“You can have as many slaves as you can grab!” Agag responded. “Take prisoners! Young ones!” The army laughed some more.

Agag turned his camel to face the Hebrews, raised his sword and proclaimed:

“Amalekites! For wealth and glory!”

“For wealth and glory!” the Amalekite army chanted thunderously.

Agag and the camels trotted towards the Hebrew camp, followed on foot by a racing Amalekite horde.

As Agag approached the Hebrews, he discerned a long row of spears, shields and swords gleaming in the morning light. He stopped his camel and signaled for the army to stop.

“What have we here?” Agag whistled in surprise. “The Hebrews have some teeth after all. Even better. We should have to work a bit for our keep. Charge!” Agag commanded and galloped at full force into the Hebrew line.

Suddenly a middle-aged, blond-haired warrior sprinted from the Hebrew line to intercept Agag. The blond warrior slashed at Agag. Agag barely caught the edge of the sword on his shield. The sword continued its slashing motion, cutting the harness of Agag’s camel and dumping Agag unceremoniously onto the hard desert floor.

Looking up, Agag noticed a tall imposing man standing on the top of Mount Horev with a staff in his hand, arms raised high. For the first time in his reign Agag felt fear.

The blond warrior continued to slash at the rest of the camel riders, weaving in-between and underneath the camels. He moved like a whirlwind, killing one rider after another in quick fluid motions. The blond warrior was now joined by half a dozen other Hebrew swordsmen.

“Joshua! Behind you!” cried an older red-headed warrior to the blond whirlwind. Without looking, Joshua stabbed backwards and gutted his would-be attacker before moving on to his next target. “Thank you, Nachshon,” Joshua called back. Within minutes, Agag’s camel division had been annihilated.

The rest of the Hebrew line moved up to engage the oncoming Amalekites. The swords rang and clanked upon the shields while a cloud of dust from the scuffling enveloped the fighters.

Agag scrambled back behind his front line and found the commander of the archers.

“Quickly! Aim for those warriors and the rest of the line, before they all engage,” Agag ordered. “Fire!”

“Shields!” Joshua screamed, and the entire Hebrew army took a step back from their adversaries and raised their shields over their heads protectively. After the arrows bounced harmlessly off their shields, the Hebrews attacked with renewed vigor.

“Argh!” Agag clentched his teeth. “It did not work! I must find Ephaz.”

Agag found the sorcerers surrounded by their protective circle of swordsmen.

“Ephaz! What is occurring?” Agag asked hurriedly. “Where did these whirling dervishes come from? Why are you not doing anything?”

Ephaz looked at Agag as if coming out of a dream. He wiped the sweat off his brow and caught his breath. He pointed towards the top of the mountain. “That is Moses up there. Whatever magic we attempt to throw at the Hebrew troops he is able to stop. I have never come across anyone so powerful. No matter how arcane or exotic the spell, Moses is able to stop it.”

Agag looked bewildered. “What does that mean? How can one man stop all of you?”

Agag then noticed the Hebrew warriors continually looking up at Moses, as if he gave them strength or purpose.

“He is the key!” Agag pointed as well. “This Moses is truly the Redeemer, but he is still one man, and we can break him. Do not stop. Have all the sorcerers focus on bringing him down. Do not waste your spells on the troops. Everyone together. Keep hammering away. He is only human and he must eventually tire.”

Agag ran to the left flank which seemed to be making more progress. He intermittently looked up to see how Moses was faring. Other Amalekites saw Agag’s gaze and started looking up frequently as well. Soon the entire Amalekite army was shifting its gaze between the fighting, to Moses and the sorcerers, and understood that the battle was being waged on that plane as well.

Joshua, Nachshon and the other whirling warriors were decimating the right flank. Though Joshua was covered with blood and grime, his skill was such that there was not one scratch upon his body.

The left flank with Agag in the lead was standing up to the Hebrew warriors. Then suddenly Moses fell. He could not be seen any longer on the mountain top. Ephaz looked across the battlefield to Agag and wave a tired sign of success.

“Yes!” Agag cried, “The Redeemer is down. Let us press the advantage.”

A cheer went up from the Amalekites. They sensed the Hebrews weakening and attacked with greater force. The Hebrews looked to the mountain, but did not see Moses. The Hebrew warriors seemed to weaken and tire. They moved slower, without the dervish speed or deadly accuracy.

Agag and his men broke through the left flank and headed towards the unprotected Hebrew camp.

“Fall back!” Joshua commanded. Pointing towards the Amalekites breaking through, he yelled, “Stop them! Regroup in the middle! Form a semicircle!”

Joshua ran at breakneck speed across the battlefield. He vaulted himself and grabbed hold of Agag’s ankles before he would have clear access to the Hebrew camp. They rolled around on the dusty ground, but quickly got on their feet, swords in hand, facing each other.

“Ah, the blond whirlwind himself,” Agag spat the dust from his mouth. “Joshua, I believe I overheard.”

Joshua answered with a quick slash aimed at Agag’s neck. Agag deftly parried and returned with a brutal overhead cut to Joshua’s arm. Joshua parried and attacked. The pair moved back and forth as their sword skills were evenly matched.

“Where did a slave like you learn to fight?” Agag asked as he blocked a twisting cut to his abdomen.

“I was with the Israelite tribe of Ephraim when we attempted to escape Egypt 30 years ago,” Joshua answered with heavy breathing. “You made a mistake to think all of us were bricklayers.”

“True, but I see that without your Moses, none of you are as fast or as deadly,” Agag looked up again to make sure Moses had not returned. “Was he your only magician?”

“Moses is not a magician,” Joshua gritted as they each held on to the other’s sword arm, their swords meeting inches away from their faces. Joshua then pushed forcefully against Agag’s sword and released him at the same time, sending Agag back a few steps. “Moses is the Prophet of God. Not some mere charlatan.”

“My mistake loyal Joshua,” Agag teased. “But it seems this Prophet of yours has disappeared. And look, my troops are overcoming your warriors. I see Hebrew blood is just as red as ours.”

“We are the chosen of God,” Joshua slashed angrily. “A heathen like you would not understand.”

“Oh, I understand very well,” Agag stepped out of reach of the sword. “I understand your claim to be the favorite of some higher power. But you are fools. You are fools that are being manipulated by charismatic leaders. Leaders that bring up fables and myths from the past to ensnare your minds.”

The Hebrew warriors were now suffering terribly at the hands of the Amalekites. They were being pushed inexorably back to the Hebrew camp. The semi-circle of defenders was getting smaller and being spread thin trying to stop the Amalekite advance.

Joshua ended up behind enemy lines. Other Amalekite swordsmen approached Agag and Joshua. Agag motioned that he wanted Joshua to himself.

“You are a good fighter,” Agag lowered his sword slightly. “If you join us, I will make it worth your while.”

“You do not know us, nor understand us,” Joshua raised his arm, leveling his sword towards Agag’s face.

“Perhaps, but I know that soon all the wealth of Egypt shall be mine,” Agag smiled. “Delivered very thoughtfully by its Hebrew slaves. I wonder if Egypt would reward us for bringing the slaves back? Or perhaps we should make use of them ourselves? I do not know what we would do with all the old ones though? What did they have them do in Egypt?”

“As God is my witness,” Joshua spat out, sword still ready to attack, “you shall not succeed. If you had seen or comprehended the powers that are at work, you would never have even dreamed of touching us. For this I am sure your damnation will be eternal.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Agag noticed movement on top of the mountain. Moses was up once again! He was supported by a person on either side holding his arms up. The long staff waved in the air like a flag of battle. A cry of joy came from the Hebrews who noticed their rejuvenated leader. Suddenly, it was the Amalekite army being pressed backward.

Agag also stepped back from Joshua and yelled at the surrounding swordsmen in a panic, “Kill him! Kill the Hebrew!”

Half a dozen swords stabbed at the place where Joshua had been standing. Three swordsmen fell dead. Joshua was outside the circle, weaving and whirling and slashing again. Agag ran back to his sorcerers. Joshua cut down the rest of the swordsmen and chased after Agag.

Joshua was met by Nachshon and a few others who had broken through the Amalekite line.

“For a moment I thought we had lost you,” Nachshon said, clamping Joshua’s arm.

“I never lost faith,” Joshua squeezed back. “How are we doing?”

“The Amalekite line is in disarray,” Nachshon said with a confident smile. “The danger has passed.”

“That is good,” Joshua nodded while still running. “Let us dispatch their leader and the sorcerers and then deal with the rest.”

Joshua and the others reached the circle of swordsmen guarding Agag and the sorcerers.

“You no longer seem so confident,” Joshua called out to Agag.

“You are rabble!” Agag cried from behind his swordsmen. “You are nothing! That gold should have been mine!”

“This is not about the gold,” Joshua explained while directing his soldiers to surround the Amalekites. “You dared attack the people of God, the children of Israel. The people of the world were in mortal fear of us, for what our God did to the Egyptians. Now other nations may try to attack us like you have. You have indeed shown us to be mere mortals and you have brought into question the omnipotence of God. You have made us bleed. For that, you and the name of your people shall be blotted out from under the heavens.”

Joshua signaled and the Hebrew warriors started whirling and bringing down one Amalekite after another. The swordsmen were the first to fall, followed by the sorcerers. Eyes wide with fright, Ephaz the sorcerer urged Agag, “Lay a dying curse on them, my liege; we should not fall so ignominiously!”

“Yes, a dying curse,” Agag looked at Joshua with dispassionate eyes. “With my dying breath,” Agag announced, “I call on the forces of the world – nay – on the Hebrew god himself,” he chuckled dryly, “that my progeny and the Amalekite heirs, be they physical or spiritual, shall be an adversary to the children of Israel – until the end of days!”

Joshua reached Ephaz and Agag, and in one swift powerful motion beheaded both of them.

“Did you hear his curse?” Nachshon asked Joshua, standing in a ring of dead Amalekites.

“Yes,” Joshua answered solemnly. “And I fear God will keep him to his word.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Exodus Chapter 17

8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said unto Joshua: ‘Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.’ 10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’

Deuteronomy Chapter 25

17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt; 18 how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. 19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.

1 Samuel Chapter 15

1 And Samuel said unto Saul: ‘The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel; now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.  2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’  4 And Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to the city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley.

7 And Saul smote the Amalekites, from Havilah as thou goest to Shur, that is in front of Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, even the young of the second birth, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was of no account and feeble, that they destroyed utterly.

32 Then said Samuel: ‘Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.’ And Agag came unto him in chains. And Agag said: ‘Surely the bitterness of death is at hand.’  33 And Samuel said: As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

Esther Chapter 3

1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed down, and prostrated themselves before Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not down, nor prostrated himself before him.

Secondary Sources:

“Go out and fight with Amalek.” Moses said, “I will concentrate on the spiritual aspects of this war; you, Joshua, concentrate on the physical fighting.” Zohar 2:65b

Joshua weakened Amalek…with the edge of the sword. He beheaded the Amalekite warriors. Mechilta Beshalach 5:1

Joshua weakened Amalek. He smote them as if they were mice. Lekach Tov, Shemot 17:13

What reason had Amalek to settle on the border on the way of the Israelites’ entry into the Land? His grandfather Esau had commanded him to encounter them on the way, so he uprooted himself and resettled there. Bamidbar Rabbah 16:18

Whenever the Holy One, Blessed is He, mentions Amalek, He curses him. Shocher Tov 118:1

Unreferenced sources (I read them, but can’t find them now):

Joshua fought 30 years earlier in failed attempt by the tribe of Ephraim to leave Egypt.

Various references to the Amalekites using magic in their attack.

Extrapolations: Agag is name for Amalekite king, similar to Pharaoh, Avimelech and many others from that era.

Metallic Doom

Egyptian Army Drowning

Exodus: Beshalach

Metallic Doom

“So the graduations hang on the wall /
But they never really helped us at all /
No they never taught us what was real /
Iron and coke, chromium steel.”
Billy Joel, Allentown

In Moses’ Song of the Sea, a part of the daily Jewish liturgy, there is also a curious metallic reference regarding the drowning Egyptians:

“Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.” Exodus 15:10

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) makes an even more interesting comment regarding lead (‘oferet’ in Hebrew).

“From the word ‘ofar’ (dirt/ground in Hebrew – same letter roots), because the six types of metals, if they are placed in the ground, they will be diminished, but lead, will increase.”

In the ancient world, the six other types of metals were as follows:

  1. Gold
  2. Silver
  3. Liquid silver (Mercury)
  4. Copper
  5. Tin
  6. Iron

Lead is the heaviest naturally occurring element. So it is no surprise for Moses to compare the quickly sinking Egyptians to this heavy metal. Hizkuni however adds another angle by showing another difference between lead and other metals.

According to Hizkuni, these other metals when buried or sunken will eventually corrode, decompose or lose from their original mass, at a known rate, thereby becoming lighter. I believe this was due to chemical reactions with the elements of the ground. This would probably not occur as easily with many modern alloys.

Lead on the other hand attracts elements of the ground to itself, thereby becoming more massive and heavier. So too, the Egyptians were destined not only to sink, but to stay sunken forever.

May we, as opposed to the Egyptian army, rise up and stay light.

Shabbat Shalom,



To my father, and the many other metal traders, miners and explorers out there.

To Matan and Ruti Nachmani on the birth of their bechor, Avinoam, and to Gabi and Tova Leah Nachmani for this first grandchild. May they all have tremendous yiddishe nachas.

Tactical Deception and Clueless Pawns

Tactical Deception and Clueless Pawns

While God performs awesome miracles, He apparently also balances them with as many “natural” causes as possible. This is fairly evident in the Splitting of the Sea and the subsequent drowning of the entire Egyptian Armed Forces in one of the most dramatic events in our history.

God could have simply disintegrated the entire Egyptian Army with their Cavalry and Chariots and at the same time teleported the fleeing Israelites to their destination.

Apparently God wanted everyone to sweat a bit, have time to absorb the fantastic events, and appreciate the incredible process that was occurring. God guides the ensuing military maneuvers in a fashion that would have earned the admiration of Sun-Tzu.

“And when Pharaoh sent the nation, and God did not lead them by the Philistine route, for it was close; for God said, lest the nation regret when they see war and return to Egypt. And God turned the nation on the desert route, the Suf Sea, and the Children of Israel ascended armed from the Land of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:17-18)

Rabbi Ovadia Sforno says something that may sound surprising upon first inspection. Sforno explains that God wanted to take the Jews to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah and then subsequently to the land of Israel. Sforno claims that the Suf Sea didn’t lead to either of these places.

The sole reason the Jews were led to the sea, was for the express purpose of baiting the Egyptians and drowning them in the miraculous trap God was setting for them.

Furthermore, it seems that the fastest route to the Suf Sea was actually via the Philistine route that God diverted the Jews away from.

Sforno explains that tactically, God wanted his Jewish pawns to be unaware of the pursuing Egyptians until it was too late. Apparently, the Philistine route was a well traveled road that was inhabited along its path. Once Pharaoh would have started his chase, the Jews would have gotten wind of it very quickly and in fear would have returned to Egypt and beg for a merciful return to their enslavement. God wanted his bait to be unaware of the impending attack in the radio-silence of the uninhabited desert. That way, when the Egyptian attack on the escaping Jews was imminent, the Jews would have no option of returning to their Egyptian masters.

The strategy, of course, works. The Jews with their backs to the sea, witness the charging Egyptian army. The Egyptians believe they have the frightened Jews trapped. The frightened Jews believe they are trapped and lament their having left Egypt.

The two protagonist nations are in place. God places some cloud cover to protect the Jews from immediate attack and blows a strong wind (more “natural” causes) to split the sea. The Jews take this surprising escape route and the Egyptians, once the cloud cover has been removed, follow in rapid pursuit.

The trap is sprung and the Egyptian army is annihilated.

I don’t know if Sun-Tzu was inspired by or even knew of the Biblical story, but following is a quote from his famous “Art of War”:

“The Power of Surprise”

“Generally, in a conflict,
The Straightforward will lead to engagement and
The Surprising will lead to triumph.”

“Those who are skilled in producing surprises
Are as infinitely varied as heaven and earth,
And as inexhaustible as the great rivers.”

When Moses and the Children of Israel subsequently sing the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-19), it’s not by chance that they praise “God, Man of War; God is His Name.” (Exodus 15:3).

May God always guide us in the tactics and strategies we need for success – even if at times we are clueless!

Shabbat Shalom,



To the IDF.

Unfamiliar Terms?

From Wikipedia

The Art of War is a Chinese military treatise that was written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu. Composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it has long been praised as the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time.

The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy in the world. It has had a huge influence on Eastern military thinking, business tactics, and beyond. Sun Tzu recognized the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. He taught that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through a to-do list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a competitive environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.