וַיֹּאמֶר יִתְרוֹ בָּרוּךְ ה’ אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם וּמִיַּד פַּרְעֹה אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶת הָעָם מִתַּחַת יַד מִצְרָיִם: (שמות יח/י
It was taught in the name of R‘ Pappeyas: It is a disgrace for Moshe and the six hundred thousand that they did not say “(that Hashem is) blessed”, Until Yisro came and said; “Blessed be Hashem” (Sanhedrin (94a)
Zera Shimshon asks two questions on this Gemorra.
Firstly, he asks in the name of the Pairosh HaYalkut why is it a disgrace that Bnei Yisroel didn’t say, “Blessed be Hashem” after the miracle of the splitting of the sea? Even though they didn’t say “Blessed is Hashem” they did say the whole Az Yashir which contains many praises to Hashem! How then can we understand the disgrace that they didn’t specifically the praise of “blessed”?
Secondly, why did R‘ Pappeyas mention that it was a disgrace for both Moshe and for the rest of the six hundred thousand? From the fact that he mentioned both of them seems that there are two separate criticisms even though that that superficially they are both being criticized for the same thing- they didn’t say “Blessed be Hashem” after they crossed Yam Suf?
Zera Shimshon answers the first question that praise isn’t a beracha and a beracha isn’t praise. There is an OBLIGATION on a person to whom a miracle happened to him to recite a beracha and this obligation cannot be fulfilled by simply saying a praise or even a lot of praises. A beracha must be said. Therefore R‘ Pappeyas said that it was a disgrace to Bnei Yisroel and Moshe that they didn’t say a beracha on the miracle that happened to them (even though they did say praises).
Concerning the second question Zera Shimshon explains that in actuality there were two separate incidents that obligated Moshe and the rest of Bnei Yisroel to make a beracha. Moshe was obligated to make a beracha after Hashem made Paraoh’s henchmen blind, deaf, and dumb to save him from being killed. And the crossing of the Yam Suf obligated the rest of Bnei Yisroel. However R‘ Pappeyas couldn’t find fault in either Moshe or the rest of the six hundred thousand without also finding fault in the other.
Moshe was obligated to make a beracha when Hashem miraculously saved Moshe from Paraoh’s henchmen like we find in Berachos (54a,) “Mar the son of Ravina was walking in the marketplace of Mechuzza and a wild camel attacked him. The wall cracked open and he went inside of it (and was saved). (The Gemorra concludes) that whenever he returns to this place he recites Blessed…. Who made for me a miracle in this place.”
However if only Moshe would have not made the necessary beracha for what happened to him but Bnei Yisroel would have blessed Hashem when they crossed the Yam Suf, R‘ Pappeyas would not have voiced any criticism. The reason for this is that there is room to say that a beracha needs to be said only on a miracle done to a mass of people but not for a miracle done to an individual. (Even though the above Gemorra (Berachos 54a) concludes that there is an obligation to make a beracha even on a miracle to an individual, the original premise was that only on a miracle to the masses must a beracha be made.)
And on the other hand if only Moshe would have made a beracha and Bnei Yisroel would not have made a beracha then R‘ Pappeyas would also not have voiced any criticism because we could think that a miracle to the masses isn’t really such a “big deal” because the merit of the masses (z’chus harabim) caused the salvation.
However since both Moshe and the rest of the six hundred thousand didn’t make a beracha on what happened to them, and one of them surely didn’t act properly R‘ Pappeyas criticized.
יִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן חֹתֵן משֶׁה אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמשֶׁה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ כִּי הוֹצִיא יְדֹוָד אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם:
And Moshe’s father in law, Yisro…, heard all that Hashem had done for Moshe and for Israel, H.s people that Hashem had taken Israel out of Mitzrayim. (Shemos 18/1)
Rashi explains that even though from the possuk it seems that Yisro came after he heard ALL the miracles that Hashem did for Bnei Yisroel, the truth is that there were two specific incidents that spurred Yisro to go to Moshe; the splitting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek.
From the fact that Rashi writes that these two incidents spurred his coming, we understand that the splitting of the Red Sea by itself didn’t provide enough inspiration for Yisro to come to Moshe. It was only after he also heard of the war with Amalek did he decide to come.
Zera Shimshon asks why wasn’t the splitting of the sea enough inspiration? What was missing that he needed also the war with Amalek to push him to come?
He answers in light of the Gemorra in Sotah daf 11/A that explains that the reason that Paroh decreed to drown all Jewish male babies (instead some other type of murder) was because he knew that Hashem made an oath never to destroy the world by a flood. Paroh therefore reasoned that since Hashem punishes Midah KeNegged Midah (measure for measure), Hashem would not be able to take revenge for his murdering of all the Jewish newborn boys.
The Gemorra concludes, however, that Paroh’s reasoning was faulty. One reason is that Hashem’s oath was not to destroy the WHOLE world by a flood. However, H. never vowed not to destroy one nation by flooding.
An alternative reason is that Hashem didn’t destroy the Mitzrayim nation by bringing a flood on them. Rather at the time of the the splitting of the Yam Suf they chased Bnei Yisroel and ran into the water. In other words, Hashem didn’t destroy them, but rather they destroyed themselves.
Zera Shimshon explains that the point of disagreement between these two answers is the way Hashem, so to speak, related to H.s oath.
Although an oath is totally and unconditionally binding, Hashem, so to speak, holds that it is acceptable to find a loophole in an oath even though superficially it appears that H. is violating the oath.
In the case of punishing the Mitzriim for drowning the first born, Hashem found a loophole in the oath- the oath was only to destroy the WHOLE world and therefore proceeded to do destroy Mitzrayim.
According to the second explanation Hashem holds it is unacceptable to violate an oath through a loophole. Therefore H. was, so to speak, bound by H.s oath not to destroy even a single nation through water. Therefore we are forced to say that the Mitzriim ran into the Sea and destroyed themselves.
According to this Zera Shimshon explains why Yisro didn’t come to Moshe until after the war with Amalek.
Yisro wanted to become part of Bnei Yisroel only if Hashem would keep H.s promise NEVER to leave the decedents of our Forefathers. Yisro wanted to be sure that even if we don’t do Hashem’s mitzvos, Hashem will not forsake us.
Yisro saw that Hashem didn’t directly drown the Mitzriim at Yam Suf (even though that they deserved to be punished Midah Kenegged Midah for their drowning the new born Jewish boys). He was unsure, though the reason for this. He reasoned that it might be because Hashem felt bound by H.s oath even though that technically H. could get out of it (since it was only not to destroy the whole world by water).
If this was the case, Yisro reasoned, then Hashem would also keep the oath to protect and to be close to Avraham’s descendants in all situations, regardless of our conduct, and Yisro would have come immediately to join the ranks of Bnei Yisroel
However, Yisro was worried that there was another reason that Hashem didn’t destroy them directly. Therefore he stayed where he was and didn’t come to Moshe
At the war against Amelek Hashem saved us miracously even though we doubted Hashem’s ability to feed us in the Desert. After Yisro saw this, he was then convinced that Hashem will always be with us. Therefore only at that time he came to convert and to be part of our nation.
א) וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן חֹתֵן משֶׁה אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמשֶׁה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ כִּי הוֹצִיא יְדֹוָד אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם: (ח) וַיְסַפֵּר משֶׁה לְחֹתְנוֹ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְדֹוָד לְפַרְעֹה וּלְמִצְרַיִם עַל אוֹדֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל הַתְּלָאָה אֲשֶׁר מְצָאָתַם בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיַּצִּלֵם יְדֹוָד-שמות יח/א, ח)
And Yisro the High Priest of Midian heard about all that Hashem did for Moshe and H.s people, Yisroel, and that H. brought Yisroel out of Mitzrayim (Shemos 18/1)… And Moshe told his father-in-law all that Hashem did to Paroah and to Mitzrayim for the sake of Yisroel, the hardships they encountered on the way, and how Hashem rescued them. (Shemos 18/8)
Zera Shimshon quotes the sefer Zera Beirach who asks why does the possuk single out that the miracle that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim was what caused for Yisro’s coming after it says in the beginning of the possuk that Yisro heard EVERYTHING that Hashem did for us. (which also includes the splitting of Yam Suf, the war with Amalek, and the Manna)
Another question that he asks is that in possuk 8 the Torah tells us that after Yisro came to Moshe, “Moshe told Yisro everything that happened”. Rashi explains that this means that he told him the splitting of Yam Suf and the war with Amelek! If Yisro already heard this, why did Moshe tell him what he already knew?
A third question that he asks is that the possuk tells us that after Moshe told Yisro “everything that happened” Yisro responded and said “Blessed is Hashem etc.”. Why didn’t he bless Hashem when he initially heard the miracles?
He answers all three question with one idea. Yisro was the high priest in Midian and he was very well versed in sorcery and black magic which was the basis of their religion. Not only did he know sorcery but he believed that the Evil Power is the most powerful force in the universe. To such a degree, that it was even more powerful than Hashem!
All this changed though, when Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim. Mitzrayim was guarded by Evil Forces and didn’t allow anyone to leave. When Hashem took Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim he saw that Hashem was really stronger than the Evil Powers! This is when he converted.
He believed though that the war with Amalek and the splitting of the Yam had nothing to do with Hashem being stronger that the Evil Force. Therefore even though that he saw them as miracles he singled out the miracle that Hashem took them out of Mitzrayim, because in his eyes this was the biggest miracle. (This is the answer to the first question.)
When Moshe realized that Yisro’s only mentioned this miracle, he concluded that Yisro believed that the war with Amalek and the splitting of the Yam weren’t events that Hashem overpowered the Evil Force. This however isn’t true. Moshe explained to Yisro that Hashem overpowered the Evil Forces both at the splitting of the Yam and during the war with Amalek. (This answers the second question Zera Shimshon asked.)
After Yisro came to realize, that it was Hashem’s superpower that caused ALL of these miracles, he answered “Blessed is Hashem etc.” (The answer to the third question
HaRav Shimshon Nachmaini, author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy about 300 years ago in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh.
The Chida writes that he was a great Mekubal and wrote many sefarim including sefarim about “ practical kabbolo“ but asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos.
He had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name “Zera Shimshon“) and in the preface he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies “... And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things... and wealth and honor......”
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