Pearls of Rashi – Parshas Beshalach

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This week we read the Torah portion Beshalach. It tells us of the incredible miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea. The Jewish nation had left Egypt a week earlier. Pharaoh had a change of heart and decided to capture the Jews and restore them to their former status as slaves. The Egyptian troops were coming closer to the Jews from behind; in front of them, all that they could see was the sea. It seemed hopeless. What did the Nation of Israel do?

The Torah tells us that[1] “Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold! The Egyptians were coming after them. They were terrified, and they cried out to Hashem.” Rashi, explaining this verse, tells us why they cried to Hashem. “They grasped hold of their ancestor’s trade (meaning that they prayed).” Rashi then gives examples to demonstrate that each of our forefathers prayed.

We have discussed several times how precise Rashi is with his language. Why would he refer to prayer as a trade? One is regularly engaged in his trade. On the other hand, prayer, which is a request for one’s needs, would seem to apply only when one has a need. This instance is a perfect example. The Jews felt that they were facing certain death, so of course, they prayed!

The explanation is that our perception of prayer is not entirely correct. We think of worship solely as a request for our needs. This implies that the primary purpose of prayer is for the individual’s benefit. One needs something, G-d supplies his need.

However, the fact is that Tefillah – Prayer is not merely for the individual’s needs. The Rambam writes that[2] “the positive commandment to pray is to serve Hashem every day through praying.”

The Rambam’s description of prayer teaches us that Tefillah is much more than a way of receiving our needs. Instead, it is a way to serve G-d, thereby coming closer to Him.

This is why Rashi specifically uses the word “trade” to describe prayer. We must continuously pray because we have a constant need to draw ourselves closer to Hashem. It is not merely an act we do to obtain our requirements; it is one of the most important ways we have of connecting to Hashem.

Granted, prayer also serves the purpose of reminding ourselves that the only One Who can supply our needs is Hashem. One constant need that we all have is the coming of Moshiach and our redemption from this exile. We should all pray for this, and Hashem will undoubtedly answer our prayers.

I wish one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 11, Page 52

IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR FATHER
Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
*
AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR MOTHER
Mrs. Brocha bas Reb Tzvi Nechemiah Hacohen O.B.M. Cohen
Passed away on 8 Shevat, 5778
May Her Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
*
DEDICATED BY THEIR CHILDREN
RABBI SHMUEL AND RIFKA שי’MENDELSOHN
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
*
ולעילוי נשמת
מרת ברכה בת ר’ צבי נחמי’ הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטרה ביום ח ‘שבט, ה’תשע”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
*
נדבת חתנם ובתם שיחיו
הרה”ת ר’ שמואל ורבקה שי’ מענדלסאהן

[1]. Our Parshah, Shemos 14:10.

[2]. See the heading to the Rambam’s Laws of Prayer. It is. known that he wrote the headings himself.

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