Parshas Beshalach – 5778
The Merit of a Mitzvah – You get Credit for Consequence as Well as Performance
Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) writes  “חכם לב יקח מצוות ואויל שפתים ילבט – One of wise heart gathers mitzvos, but a fool’s lips stumble.” Chazal  relate this pasuk to a pasuk in this week’s parsha  stating: ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף עמו – “Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him.
While all of Bnei Yisroel was occupied with gathering gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors, Moshe Rabeinu was searching for Yosef’s remains. For the Bnei Yisroel to take the gold and valuables from the Egyptians was also Hashem’s will, as the pasuk says  דבר נא באזני העם וישאלו איש מאת רעהו ואשה מאת רעותה כלי כסף וכלי זהב – “please speak in the ears of the people. Let each man request of his fellows and each woman from her fellows silver vessels and gold vessels.” The Gemarah  comments that this was a Divine obligation to fulfill Hashem’s promise to Avraham Avinu that his descendants would leave Egypt with great wealth.
The commentators ponder – what was so special about Moshe Rabeinu’s actions (gathering Yosef’s bones) that he is described as “wise of heart” in gathering mitzvos? After all, the Torah openly commands the people that “each man ask his fellow (Egyptian) man and each woman ask her fellow (Egyptian) woman for gold and silver utensils.” If this was also a mitzvah, why is Moshe’s mitzvah considered to be of greater value? Another difficulty is the wording “wise of heart in gathering mitzvos”, where mitzvos is written in its plural form instead of being written in its singular form – mitzvah.
Before Yosef passed away, he made his brothers take an oath that when they left Egypt they would take his remains with them. As the pasuk  says ויאמר יוסף אל אחיו אנכי מת ואלקים פקד יפקד אתכם והעלה אתכם מן הארץ אל הארץ אשר נשבע לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב, וישבע יוסף את בני ישראל לאמר פקד יפקד אלקים אתכם והעליתם את עצמתי מזה – Yosef said to his brothers, “I am about to expire, but Hashem will surely remember you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Avraham, to Yitzchock and to Yaakov.” Then Yosef adjured the children of Israel saying, “Indeed Hashem will remember you, and you will bring my bones up out of this place.” Although Yosef made this demand of all his brothers, Moshe was the one who sought out Yosef’s remains to take them out of Egypt.
Moshe understood that by locating the remains of Yosef, the Jews would not have to do so and therefore, they would be free to undertake the task of asking their Egyptian neighbors for their utensils. So, Moshe actually enabled the rest of Bnei Yisroel to fulfill the mitzvah of taking the gold and silver of Mitzrayim.
Chazal tell us  that the Red Sea only split when it saw Yosef’s bier. Ultimately, without Yosef’s bones, the Bnei Yisroel would not have been able to leave Egypt despite all the miracles that had taken place. Moshe Rabeinu’s efforts were what brought about Klal Yisroel’s ability to fulfill the mitzvah that they had to perform. And, indeed, Moshe’s actions were the reason that the Yam Suf split in the first place — to save the Jews from certain death. This was a great miracle, causing great Divine revelation and giving the Jews the added bonus of bizas hayam (the spoils of the Egyptian army that washed up on the shores of the Yam Suf). The Medrash  says that the the bizas hayam were of even greater value than the gold and silver taken from the Egyptians in the land of Egypt!
Moshe, by virtue of his “wise heart” realized that it is impossible for a person to do two mitzvos simultaneously — locating Yosef’s bier and gathering the wealth of Egypt. He therefore took it upon himself to fulfill the task of taking Yosef’s bones, thereby enabling everyone else to fulfill the duty of acquiring Egypt’s wealth (ultimately crossing the sea and bringing them even more wealth). Moshe deserves credit for the fulfillment of both mitzvos although he personally performed only one. We can thus understand why the Medrash refers to Moshe as “the wise heart who gathers mitzvos (plural) as opposed to “mitzvah” (singular). The Medrash is alluding to Moshe’s enabling of the fulfillment of both mitzvos.
We can learn a valuable lesson from the above.
When we perform a good deed, we merit reward not only for that particular act, but we are also credited with all consequential benefits that result from our actions.
Furthermore, although “mitzvah” simply means “commandment”, it is from the same Hebrew root as the Aramaic word “tzavsa” (or tzavta) , which means “to cleave and connect.” This illustrates the concept that when one performs a mitzvah, he is (if one were permitted to use an expression that approaches apotheosis) bound and attached to Hashem.
The Gemarah  states that as a reward for his efforts regarding Yosef’s burial, Moshe Rabeinu merited being buried by Hashem Himself. Moshe attached himself to Hashem (again we must distance ourselves from apotheosis) by fulfilling the mitzvah of retrieving Yosef’s bones as a totally selfless act. And as a result of this deed, Hashem Himself buried Moshe which expresses the ultimate connection to Hashem that a person can possibly have in his physical state.
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