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To Feel for Another Jew: The Untold Story of a Sea Splitting for Two Sinners

Empathy Is Never Forgotten

1 hr 52 min

Class Summary:

This class was presented on Sunday Parshas Beshalach, 8 Shevat 5777, February 5, 2017, at Ohr chaim Shul, Monsey, NY

The opening of our portion related how Pharaoh had a change of heart right after he let the Jewish people go. "He said to the Children of Israel: They are lost in the land, the desert closed in on them." Rashi raises the obvious difficulty with this verse. Pharaoh did not speak to the children of Israel, for they had left Egypt already. How could he be talking to them?

The Targum Yonasan ben Uziel gives an astonishing explanation. There were two Jews, Dassan and Aviram, who remained in Egypt. They refused to leave. Pharaoh spoke to them, reassuring them that the Jews are lost, stranded, and stuck in the desert. Their choice to flee the country was an ill-conceived one.

Yet here is where the story becomes mind staggering. If they chose to stay in Egypt, how do we discover them journeying with the Jews in the desert – complaining about the manna, revolting with Korach? The answer is plain if absurd. They must have tagged along with Pharaoh when he went to pursue the Jews by the sea. And when the sea split, they too were spared. They too crossed along with the Jews, and got to the other side safe and sound.

This is absurd. These two fellows who were absolute atheists, it seems, fighting Moses and G-d at every step of the way, choosing to remain in Egypt, are saved with their brethren. They have linked their fate and destiny to Egypt, not to the Hebrew. Why were they spared at the red sea while all of the Egyptians drowned?

What is more, the Midrash teaches that many Jews who did not want to leave Egypt, died during the three days of darkness. Yet Dathan and Aviram who also did not want to leave, remained intact. Why? It was the “Saraf” of Brisk and the Beer Maim Chaim who presented an astounding answer. 

We explore the conversation between Reb Shmuel of Shiniva and the Chidushei HaRim about the Talmudic expression “Krias Yam Suf.” We delve into the story of Miriam bas Bilgah and the “rectification of a soul” by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1975. We discover the power of empathy, of taking a blow for another Jew, something that placed Dasan and Aviran on a lofty spiritual pedestal.

Please leave your comment below!

  • M

    Moshe -4 years ago

    Dosan and Aviram apparently didn't want to leave Mitzrayim

    Yet they alone were spared from the death that befell two thirds  of the yidden who perished in the plague of  choshesh because they  didn't want to  leave after the slavery was  over. 

    [And how many of those comfortable now in golus wouldn't want to leave those comforts when this longest and darkest golus will end?] 

    Hashem spared them for reasons known only to Him but obviously these two trouble makers had a  role to play in all the acts of  defiance in  the  mid bar so had to  be  saved. 

    Notice that it is  said that 3 million people  were present at  Har Sinai inclufing the erev rav. If 80% perished in  makka choshesh (and who buried them all so quickly?) . Mathematically that means there were about 15  million yidden before the  makka.  

    Strangely that is close to  the number of  yidden  alive in 1939. If 6 million, one third, perished then there were about 18 Million before. The holocaus was one third of  our people.  

    Makka choshesh was 80% a far greater number number than one third. The "crime" for which 80% perished was not  wanting to  leave after slavery was  over. What are  the  implications? 

      Can there be some absolute number of  yidden beyond which He does want us to grow regardless of the percentage we are in the world (1939 6 million was a much smaller percentage  of  the  world than we  were  in Mitzrayim)? 

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  • M

    mendel -5 years ago

    שמעתי ממך פירוש יפה (תוך כל הדברים המאלפים) על דתן ואבירם, שבגלל שהוכו על אחיהם זכו שיקרע להם הים.

    להעיר שיש בלקוטי שיחות חל"ו שמות אריכות בנוגע לויירא משה ויאמר אכן נודע הדבר, שבגלל שמשה התיירא ולא חשב טוב ולא הי' לו בטחון, אזי יצר במו ידיו שדתן ואבירם ילשינו אותו לפרעה. דהיינו שמעצמם לא היו עושים זאת.
    ובהנחה הבלתי מוגהת בשיחות קודש (שמות תשכ"ו בסופו) יש ביטוי "הוי לי' למשה להיות לו בטחון אז א איד וועט נישט גיין מסרן אויף משה רבינו" וממשיך שם שלשון הרע מוציא את הרע בגלוי, דהיינו היות ש"ויאמר משה" אכן נודע הדבר, הוא גרם להוציא את הרע של דתן ואבירם בגלוי.
    ואלו הי' משה חושב ומדבר טוב על דתן ואבירם היו הולכים בדרכי ישרים (לפי ערך).
    ולהעיר משיחת נח תשמ"ח, שהם היו אוהבי ישראל בטבע נפשם וכל ההכאה וההלשנה שלהם הי' שינוי טבעם לגמרי.


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    • I

      isaac -5 years ago

      תודה רבה מאד מאד על זה. ודברי פי חכם חן!!
      שמעתי פעם שהחת"ס אמר שבזמן קרח החשיבו בנ"י דתן ואבירם כמו משה ואהרן ולכן הלכו אחריהם. אבל לא מצאתי מקור בכתביו. ויל"ע.
      וזה יובן ע"פ התורה הזו שהיה להם קרי"ס מיוחד!

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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    בשפתי צדיק פרשת שמות כתב דבר נורא וז"ל
    ובמד"ר (פרשה ה) איתא שענה פרעה למשה ואהרן הן רבים עתה עם הארץ, אם הייתם מבקשים איזה אלפים אנשים הייתי נותן, אבל ששים רבוא הפסד רב, ותמוה שאז היו עדיין בחיים כל אותן שנעדרו בג' ימי אפילה, והיו כמה פעמים ס' רבוא, אלא על כרחך שאותן היו גבירים ופדו עצמן בממון ולכך לא הרגישו כל כך כובד הגלות ולכך מיאנו לצאת למדבר ונעדרו רחמנא ליצלן, רק ס' רבוא אותן שעבדו עבודת הפרך הם נגאלו, כן בדורינו, מי שיש לו שלות השקט ואינו משתתף עם הציבור להרגיש הכובד והלחץ קשה שירגיש הארת הגאולה במהרה בימינו, אך הנותן לב לסבול בצער הציבור לעמוד לימין אביון בכל כחו, הוא שותף בהגלות ויזכה להגאל עם הכלל.


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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    בשפתי צדיק פרשת שמות כתב דבר נורא וז"ל
    ובמד"ר (פרשה ה) איתא שענה פרעה למשה ואהרן הן רבים עתה עם הארץ, אם הייתם מבקשים איזה אלפים אנשים הייתי נותן, אבל ששים רבוא הפסד רב, ותמוה שאז היו עדיין בחיים כל אותן שנעדרו בג' ימי אפילה, והיו כמה פעמים ס' רבוא, אלא על כרחך שאותן היו גבירים ופדו עצמן בממון ולכך לא הרגישו כל כך כובד הגלות ולכך מיאנו לצאת למדבר ונעדרו רחמנא ליצלן, רק ס' רבוא אותן שעבדו עבודת הפרך הם נגאלו, כן בדורינו, מי שיש לו שלות השקט ואינו משתתף עם הציבור להרגיש הכובד והלחץ קשה שירגיש הארת הגאולה במהרה בימינו, אך הנותן לב לסבול בצער הציבור לעמוד לימין אביון בכל כחו, הוא שותף בהגלות ויזכה להגאל עם הכלל.


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  • S

    Sammy -6 years ago

    Basically the water split for dasan and aviram again, but we always learned that the mitzriyim were right behind them, running after the yidden and the second the last yid crossed the yam suf it crashed down on the mitzriyim. If paroh was telling dasan and aviram that the yidden ran away (where it says that paroh was saying this to bnei yisroel and the least plural could be is two and Targum yonhasan says bnei yisroel is dasan and aviram) then must be that dasan and aviram we’re together with the mitzriyim. Meaning the yidden crossed the yam suf and dasan and aviram were with the mitzriyim right behind them so there couldn’t have been that much space between them (cuz the second the last yid stepped out the first mitzri went in). Why did the water have to come together and then split again for dasan and aviram? It should’ve just stayed split for a few more seconds to let dasan and aviram pass. 
    Unless dasan and aviram crossed the water at a complete different time... maybe after the mitzriyim..
    When I told someone the schmooze the added a great point. Why after so many ניסים גלויים these רשעים had the odasity and Chutzpah to fight Moshe at every turn and bend.
    It is because they stayed in מצרים  after the Jews left. They got caught in the. " נ שערי טומאה".  Of which there is no return.


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    • Anonymous -6 years ago

      1.  Why did they leave Egypt?  They left Egypt because they joined Pharoh and his 600 chariots to pursue the Jews to BRING THEM BACK TO MITZRAYIM.  They were hoping to see all their friends and relatives back.

      2. Where were they exactly in the Yam Suf when it split for them? We do not know. Maybe they were in the back of everybody, and then it split after drowning the Egyptians. Maybe they were in the front, trying to persuade their brothers to return, and the sea split for them for a moment. Maybe they were in the middle and a path was created for them. I do not know.

      3. The insight of the 50 gates of impurity is wonderful.

      4. I think the Chasam Sofer states that Jews viewed Dasan and Aviram like Moshe and Aharon; that is why they obeyed them by the Korach story. Now why would they have such a view of Dasan and Aviram? But if they had their own Krias Yam Suf it is clear!

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  • G

    Gili -6 years ago

    Regarding the shiur the Rabbi gave on 5th February 2017 entitled "To feel for another Jew, the untold story of the a sea splitting" it is not often that one hears a chiddush so groundbreaking in its insight as well as its ramifications for the way to live life after hearing the chiddush.
    I have a question based on this chiddush on the haggadah where we say in the Ilu Hotzianu piece, "Ilu karah lanu et hayam veloh he'eviranu betocho b'cherava, Dayanu". It must be, based on the chiddush, that both of these lines are referring to Datan and Aviram who were the ones for whom Kriyat hayam refers as well as to whom Heeviranu betocho b'cherava refers. 
    If that is the case, what is the need for the repetition. It would have made more sense if the one line said "Ilu Baka lanu et hayam" and then he'eviranu betocho b'cherava which would refer once to Bnei Yisrael and once to Datan and Aviram?

    Thank you again

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    • Anonymous -6 years ago

      Good question.
      It seems to me that niot every time it says "kara" does it mean Dasan and Aviram. After all, that became the "name" for this miracle -- Krias Yam Suf.


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  • Y

    Yossi -6 years ago

    Just watched your shiur called 'empathy is never forgotten'. It was incredible, the lesson was amazing and the torah was amazing thank you.

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -7 years ago

    Here is an email exchange I had with one of our students:

    I really loved your shiur on parshas Beshalach this year where u explained the second krias yam suf for Dasan and Aviram (D&A). Really very powerful!!!

    Although I am seeking further clarity on the topic by asking the following questions. Perhaps you can help me understand with some insights.

    1) Many meforshim explain that the splitting of the sea wasn't in a straight line - like a bridge. But rather it was a semi circle - where they wound up on the same side of land just out of harms way.
    If so, why would a second splitting be necessary?

    2) Were D&A the only 2 officers that took beatings for their brothers? Millions of jews died during darkness. Surely they had more than 2 Jewish officers to police such a huge population. What happend to the rest of them?

    3) Reading the Shirah with this new understanding that its refering to D & A, how do we understand the passuk that says "Vayaminu BaShem U'vmoshe Avdo"? If they really believed, they would've been on the first boat with everyone else.


    1) Presumably, when the Egyptians ran into the sea to chase the Jews, they ran in with them, as the sea was dry at the time. Later the waters returned, they would have been caught up in the raging waters if not for a splitting for them.
    You may ask, why did the Egyptians run into the sea in the first place? Why could they not pursue the Jews via dry land, as the Jews emerged from the semi circle? But whatever the reason, Dasan and Aviram were there in the midst of it all.

    2) Perhaps the police men all left Egypt and wanted to leave Egypt. Or perhaps they survived the plague of darkness and seeing what happened to their brethren decided to leave Egypt. It was only Dasan and Aviran who still remained -- which only brings out even more how stubborn and defiant they were.

    3) Of course the Vayamenu is referring to all of Klal Yisroel and the song celebrated their own miracle. It is just that at the end of the Shirah they decided to include ALSO this final and last miracle for Dasan and Aviram.

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  • NO

    Nate Offenberg -7 years ago

    Does anyone know where i can find the video of the Rebbe talking ( crying ) about Miriam bas Biga? I saw it once and was AMAZED by the ahavas yisroel for a total stranger who lived more than two thousand years ago.
    Whoever has not seen it will be amazed!!

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  • R

    Rachel -7 years ago

    Your Shiur was an Oscar!!!!
    Beautiful, beautiful! I feel I need to say so much about your wonderful Shiur, but I'm left ......speechless ! thank you!!!!

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  • O

    Odom -7 years ago

    26 years ago when I was in eight grade in Yeshiva of Montreal Rav Mottel Weinberg Z”L came into our class and told us about the second קריעת ים סוף of דתן ואבירם. He then said over a רמז that has been puzzling me ever since. We say every day in davening כל בכוריהם הרגת ובכורך ישראל גאלת וים סוף להם בקעת וזדים טבעת וידידים העברת וגו' he asked if we went across the ים סוף and then זדים טבעת why say again וידידם העברת. He therefore translated the words וידידם העברת on דתן ואבירם meaning after the original קריעת ים סוף there was a second one where ה' brought over two more yidden. I was always puzzled by two things, for whatever reason ה' decided to make a separate קריעת ים סוף for these individuals. (I don’t know if he didn’t say over the reason or I just didn’t remember it) But why must we mention it every day by davening? And on top of that to call them ידידים?!? Now I have my answer! Thank you again for the shiurim both for the rich content and the gevaldige chizuk! הקב"ה יברך את כת"ר שליט"א עם כוח וס"ד להיות מקור לתורה וחיזוק מתוך בריאת הגוף ומנוחת הנפש עם הרחבת הדעת והרבה נחת עד ביאת גואל צדק במהרה בימינו

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  • N

    norman -7 years ago

    Their is an old story of a boy that told his rebbi "I was up all night because of your drosho, He slept at the drosho so he was not tired"

    But I can't fall asleep as my heart is still pounding of the powerful message the way you delivered the anticipation, Wow wow wow, I have much to share on today's topic, but now the stage is yours! Thank You Thank You Thank You Ashrecho ve'Ashrainu.
    May the almighty continue giving you the strength to see the beauty in each and everyone, maybe now I'll be able to fall asleep. Good Night

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • February 5, 2017
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  • 9 Sh'vat 5777
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Leilu Nishmat Reb Eliyahu Tzion ben Reb Chananya Niasoff ז"ל 
And in the merit of our partner in Torah Yigal Yisroel ben Sofia שיחיו 

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