As they march out of Egypt towards their miraculous trek through the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites are ‘armed’ with weapons. We have to wonder -- where did they get them? God disposed the Egyptians to give them material goods and some rabbis interpret the word for ‘arms’ that way -- that the Israelites had enough food to last until the manna started a month later, 2 meals a day plus 1 = 61 meals. But most classical commentators believe that somehow God made sure they had actual armaments so that, later in the Torah when they encounter enemies, they would have the spears they’d need to fight.
The Hebrew word Chamushim also includes the root for the word five in it -- Chamesh -- which leads to other interpretations. There is a famous midrash that during the 9th plague of darkness that 4 out 5 Israelites died for various sins meaning that the escapees were one out of 5, Chamushim meaning -- a fifth. A more plausible explanation comes from Rabbi Gunther Plaut in the 20th century that they left in groups of fifty.
This week, however, I was struck by the interpretation of Torat Moshe, the 16th century sage from Sefad, theAlshech, Rabbi Moshe Alshech, who said they were armed with Joseph’s bones they had promised to return to the promised land -- that the remains of a righteous man, a Tzadik, are what made them powerful enough to subdue their enemies.
In the real world we know that the State of Israel would not likely survive without real weapons to defend and deter. But in order to decide they deserve this self-defense, they need to know that the 2/3 remnant of the Jewish people that weren't murdered in the Holocaust have something to live for.
We just said goodbye this past week to David Klein who fought an 18 year battle against cancer, about 6 of which were thanks to a potent medical weapon, a bone marrow transplant from Elchonon Reizes.
At his Shiva Minyan the family put up a poster that under other circumstances couldn’t be said from the bimah -- Bone Me -- meaning give me new bone marrow. It was created for a party to celebrate his upcoming travel to receive the transplant some 7 years ago.
It’s very possible that the University of Louisville men’s basketball team would have beat Duke to play in the Final Four last season no matter what, but when Kevin Ware lay on the court with a bone protruding from his leg, I think it would be an understatement to suggest that the rest of the guys were inspired to play harder and better by his grace in the face of such a gruesome and painful injury.
Shabbat is the moment each week we need to help us cope with the frustrations of the week that has passed and to inspire us to transcend the challenges of the week to come. Our memories of those who coped with difficulties we have not are potent weapons in our collective arsenals.