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Whiskers of Weakness: How Enemies Pounce on Vulnerability.

Written by שי טחן, 22/1/2024

Whiskers of Weakness: How Enemies Pounce on Vulnerability.


Rabbi Shay Tahan

It's intriguing to observe the thematic symmetry in our parasha, Beshalach, as it opens and concludes with a resonant message. The recurring theme emphasizes the vulnerability that surfaces when weakness is expressed, inviting merciless attacks from adversaries. In the initial stages, the Torah recounts that after three days of departing from Egypt, Hashem instructed the nation to halt their journey and simulate being lost in the desert. This deliberate act was a manifestation of expressing weakness and vulnerability. The strategic intent was to create an illusion for Pharaoh, making him believe that the nation was lost, thereby providing him with what seemed like the opportune moment to launch an attack.

Towards the end of our parasha, Amalek launches an attack against Am Israel. The verse states, "ויבא עמלק, וילחם עם ישראל ברפידים." Chazal interpret the term "Refidim" as a hint to the weakening of the nation's commitment to Torah study, as found in (בכורות ה,ב): "" שרפו ידיהם מן התורה, signifying a decline in Torah learning. This expression of weakness becomes apparent, providing an opportunity for Amalek to perceive vulnerability and launch an attack.

One might question why Pharaoh, even after experiencing ten plagues, feeling fear, and acknowledging his inability to persist in harassing the Jewish nation due to Hashem's protection, would still attempt to attack. The answer can be likened to a cat that, despite initial terror of being caught by a person, loses all fear when it spots a mouse. In this situation, the cat pursues the mouse even in the presence of the person, as the temptation is too strong to resist. Similarly, when Pharaoh perceives the vulnerability of the Jewish nation, he loses control of his restraint and impulsively rushes to chase them.

The same principle applies to Amalek. At the end of Parashat Ki Tetze, Amalek attacks the spiritually weak in Israel. Rashi explains that he attacked those who were spiritually weak, signifying their inclination towards sin. This illustrates that enemies discern two types of weaknesses. One is physical weakness, as Pharaoh detected, and the other is spiritual weakness. The lesson is clear: we must not allow ourselves to be weak at any moment; as such vulnerabilities are immediately detected by our adversaries.

Recent events have underscored this principle more than ever. Israelis were observed globally in a state of division, with pilots threatening not to fly warplanes and army reservists expressing their unwillingness to participate in the next war. Our enemies perceived this as an opportune moment to make their move and launch an attack.

On Erev Shabbat, we read the Mishnayot (שבת פרק ב’) stating that women may face mortality during labor due to three sins: negligence in observing Nidah laws, neglecting the separation of Chalah, and failing to light the Shabbat candles. The Gemara explains that the punishment may occur during labor because the woman is then vulnerable and weak.

Chazal (שבת לב,א) draw a parallel to a butcher aiming to slaughter an ox. The butcher seizes the opportunity when the ox falls, rendering it defenseless. Chazal express this concept with the saying: "נפל תורא, חדד סכינא," which translates to "when the ox falls, sharpen your knives." This metaphor emphasizes the idea that vulnerability creates an opportune moment for consequences to manifest, urging individuals to be vigilant and avoid spiritual shortcomings, especially during critical times.

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