Keep the Numbers Straight by Dr. Joel M. Berman


ויקח שש מאות רכב...

“And he [Pharaoh] took 600 chariots …”

Why exactly 600 chariots?  And what does Parshat Beshalach have to do with this week’s Parsha?  Pharaoh was one of the wisest men in the world.  He even knew of the Tochachot in this week’s Parsha.  He therefore knew that Israel is undefeatable when keeping Torah and Mitzvot.  At such a time the Torah teaches “if the enemy attacks us from one route, the enemy will flee (from us) down seven routes.”  Pharaoh also knew that when Israel is not keeping Torah and Mitzvot two enemy soldiers will be capable of chasing 10,000 of ours.  Pharaoh felt, with some justification, that Bnai Yisrael were far from keeping Torah and Mitzvot, and therefore every two of his soldiers would be capable of vanquishing 10,000 Bnai Yisrael.

Since 600,000 Bnai Yisrael left Mitzrayim, simple dimensional analysis, (600,000 Bnai Yisrael)(2 Mitzri chariots/ 10,000 Bnai Yisrael), dictates that Pharaoh should have attacked Bnai Yisroel with 120 chariots, not 600.  R’ Chaim Rappaport זצ"ל has an explanation for this discrepancy.  We recall that Rashi teaches us that four fifths of Bnai Yisrael died during the plague of Darkness- unbeknownst to Pharaoh.  More simple arithmetic (600,000 x 5) shows us that there were 3,000,000 Bnai Yisrael before the Makah.  Since Pharaoh believed that he was attacking 3,000,000 Bnai Yisrael he therefore required (3,000,000 Bnai Yisroel) (2 Mitzri chariots/ 10,000 Bnai Yisroel) or 600 chariots.

Just as we appeared outnumbered when we left Mitzrayim we must constantly remind ourselves, especially during these worrisome times, that our wars have never been dictated by numbers of soldiers or numbers of weapons.  Our enemies have always outnumbered us, both in weapons and soldiers, many times over.  The last Mishna in Sotah explains how the last generation before the final Geula will have dog-like characteristics.  I have heard the following explanation.  A dog, if harassed with a stick, will bark at the stick instead of the person controlling it.  Our enemies are only a stick, sent by Hashem to punish us for not keeping Torah and Mitzvot.  The best strategy, along with צה"ל, is provided again by the last Mishna in Sotah; “Upon whom shall we depend?  Upon Avinu Shebashamaim.”

A Piece From the Rock by Dr. Joel Berman

Warring Women by David Gertler