Parshat Beshalach – Tomorrow?

This morning while reading Parshat Beshalach, I was struck by verse 17:9 (Artscroll translation):

Exodus Chapter 17

9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose people for us and go do battle with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”

What in the world is Moses talking about? Tomorrow?!? This is war! It can’t wait until tomorrow!

I’ve looked at a few commentators to see their thoughts on this.

Most of them don’t make any mention of it at all.

parshat beshalach

However, Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznaim LaTorah does discuss it. R. Sorotzkin’s thoughts have been translated and published in English with the title Insights In The Torah.

He offers two possible explanations for why it was a good idea to wait for tomorrow.

Explanation #1

Granted, Amalek was attacking and the war had started. But, the Jewish people were protected by the Clouds of Glory. Those clouds were protecting the people and preventing Amalek’s arrows from entering the Jewish camp.

This situation needed to be dealt with because there were times when people went outside the camp beyond the protection of the clouds.

parshat beshalach

For this reason there was no need to counterattack right away. The Jewish people could choose the time that would be to their advantage.

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A Lesson for Us

It seems to me there is a good lesson here that we can apply to our own lives.

Maybe not every problem we face has to be dealt with immediately.

Take a close look at the situation and decide when is the best time for you to act. Act when you have the best chance of success.

Explanation #2

Moses knew that the war against Amalek would depend on the spiritual condition of the Jewish people.

He also knew that the victory would depend on him.

How so? Look at verse 17:11:

Exodus Chapter 17

11 It happened that when Moses raised his hand Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand Amalek was stronger.

The mishna in Rosh Hashanah 3:8 asks the obvious question:

Mishna Rosh Hashanah Chapter 3

But could the hands of Moses make war or lose a war? It is rather to teach you, As long as Israel was looking upwards and subjecting their hearts to their Father in Heaven – they prevailed, and if not – they fell.

According to Rabbi Sorotzkin, the spiritual preparation was Moses decreed a fast day. In the merit of the fast he was prepared to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people.

The fast helps explain why Moses had trouble keeping his hands raised up (see verse 17:12).

It also explains why it was necessary to delay the fight until tomorrow.

This was a voluntary fast. Voluntary fasts require acceptance of the fast at mincha (the afternoon prayers) the day before the fast.

Therefore, there was no choice but to delay the attack against Amalek until the next day.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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