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Parashat Bamidbar: Nachshon, Prince Among Princes? by Yaakov Bieler

May 21, 2012 by  
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The “Nesi’im” of the tribes.

At the beginning of Parashat BaMidbar, we are introduced to the “Nesi’im” (princes) of each of the tribes of Israel.[1]

BaMidbar 1:5-15

1) Reuven—Elitzur ben Shedei’ur

2) Shimon—Shlumiel ben Tzurishadai

3) Yehuda—Nachshon ben Aminadav

4) Yisachar—Netanel ben Tzuar

5) Zevulun—Eliav ben Chailon

6) Ephraim—Elishama ben Amihud

7) Menashe—Gamliel ben Pedatzur

8) Binyamin—Avidan ben Gidoni

9) Dan—Achiezer ben Amishadai

10) Asher—Pagiel ben Achran

11) Gad—Elyasaf ben Deuel

12) Naftali—Achira ben Einan[2]

While it is possible that the men called “Nesi’im” came to their positions by virtue of the importance of their fathers from whom they inherited their positions of leadership, i.e., “Yichus” (genealogical relationships), it is also likely that at least some of them distinguished themselves in their own rights. The problem is that the text supplies the reader with virtually nothing with which to hypothesize what the specific qualities of these men may have been that might allow them to properly fulfill such an important leadership role.

One Nasi who according to tradition distinguished himself and therefore earned the position.

Certainly the most well-known of the men listed in BaMidbar 1 is the Nasi of the tribe of Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav.[3] Within the biblical text itself, the only exceptional thing associated with Nachshon[4] is his being explicitly mentioned as the brother of Elisheva, Aharon’s wife (Shemot 6:23). Since it is atypical for biblical verses to identify siblings of characters that are clearly peripheral to the main story line,[5] Rabbinic commentators try to account for literary deviations of this type. Bava Batra 110a suggests that the mentioning of Nachshon as Elisheva’s brother is to remind us of the general rule that considering a spouse’s siblings will serve as a predictor for how one’s own future children will turn out. It would seem that implicit in this comment is the fact that Nachshon was an exemplary individual and thus Aharon had chosen well when he married Elisheva. However, to this point in the Tora narrative, why Nachshon should be considered special is not indicated. With respect to Aharon and his future offspring in particular, Ibn Ezra, RaMBaN and Rabbeinu Bechaye remark upon how the original Kohanim, i.e., Aharon’s sons, combined the best qualities of both the priestly (Aharon the Levite) and the royal (Nachshon, and therefore Elisheva, from the tribe of Judah) foundations of the Jewish people. But these insights again appear to have more to do with the traditions and general characteristics of the members of an entire tribe, rather than the specific actions of Nachshon himself.

Nachshon’s singular virtue according to Rabbinic tradition.

We are supplied with more specific information about Nachshon’s personal qualities, when according to one view in the Jewish Oral Tradition Nachshon is reputed to have displayed singular heroism and deep faith in HaShem’s Powers of Redemption during the Exodus from Egypt. At the Sea of Reeds, this Rabbinic view maintains, Nachshon is the first to plunge into the waters, well before the sea has split.[6] The textual basis for this tradition is an imaginative interpretation of verses in Tehillim.

Sota 36b

R. Chana bar Bizna said in the name of R. Shimon HeChasid: … because Yehuda sanctifies the Heavenly Name in public, the whole of his name is called after the Name of the Holy One Blessed Be He.[7] [8]

Ibid. 36b-37a

What is it that Yehuda did (to deserve the special distinction of his name)?
As it has been taught:

R. Yehuda said: …Each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the sea. Then sprang forward Nachshon, son of Aminadav, and descended first into the sea, as it is said, (Hoshea 12:1) “Ephraim surrounds Me with lies; and the house of Israel with deceit; but Yehuda still ‘Rod’ (lit. rules, but according to R. Yehuda’s interpretation, Yehuda goes down[9] [into the sea], because his trust) is with God, and is faithful with holy ones.” Concerning him (Nachshon) it is stated in the bible, (Tehillim 69:2-3) “Save me, oh God, for the waters have come up to my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters and the flood overwhelms me.” (Ibid. 15-16) “Deliver me out of the mire, and Let me not sink; let me be delivered from those who hate me and out of the deep waters. Let not the water flood overwhelm me nor the deep swallow me up and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.” At that time, (just before the splitting of the sea) Moshe was engaged for a long while in prayer.[10] So the Holy One Blessed Be He said to him: “My holy ones are drowning in the sea and you stand before Me and prolong prayer?” He (Moshe) spoke before Him: “Lord of the Universe. What is in my power to do?” He Replied to him: (Shemot 14:15-16) “Why do you cry to Me? Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward. Lift up your rod and stretch your hand over the sea, and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry land through the midst of the sea.”

For that reason, Yehuda was worthy to be made the ruling power in Israel, as it is said, (114:2) “Yehuda became His Sanctuary, Israel His Dominion.” Why did Yehuda become His Sanctuary and Israel His Dominion? Because (114:3) “The sea saw him (Yehuda—Nachshon) and fled…”

Clearly, the verses in Tehillim do not directly point to Nachshon’s having been the first to enter the Sea of Reeds. This text could just as easily be understood as reflecting one of the many metaphors that the Psalmist employs upon feeling overwhelmed by his situation, fearing that he will not survive the present danger that he is facing, and calling upon HaShem for salvation.[11] It would appear that R. Yehuda in the Gemora was looking to promote someone from the tribe of Yehuda to the role of public hero, and thereby justify the eventual choosing of members of this tribe to serve as king, a tradition that seems to originate with the blessings of Yaakov to his son Yehuda:

Beraishit 49:8-11

Yehuda, you are the one who your brothers will praise, your hand will be on the neck of your enemies.

Yehuda is a lion’s cub; from the prey you have risen: he stooped down, he crouched like a lion and a lioness; who will make him rise up?

The staff shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the scepter from between his feet, until Shilo come, and the obedience of the people be his.

A second view in the Talmud, however, does not attribute Yehuda’s distinction to Nachshon’s heroism.

But the Talmud offers an alternative approach to the question posed in Sota 36b, “What is it that Yehuda did” that would appear to preclude focusing upon Nachshon altogether:

Sota 10b

(Beraishit 38:26) “And Yehuda acknowledged them (the objects that he had given as a pledge to Tamar who had been disguised as a prostitute in order to seduce him) and said, “She is more righteous than I” (he publicly admitted that he had been at fault by withholding from Tamar his third son, Sheila, he had acted improperly, and was at least indirectly responsible for her provocative actions.)

This is what R. Chana bar Bizna said in the name of R. Shimon HeChasid: … because Yehuda sanctifies the Heavenly Name in public, the whole of his name is called after the Name of the Holy One Blessed Be He. When he (Yehuda) confessed and said, “She is more righteous than I”, a “Bat Kol” (a Divine Voice) issued forth and proclaimed, “You rescued Tamar and her two sons (the twins which she was carrying) from fire (upon learning that Tamar was pregnant, Yehuda had given the order that she be executed for her apparent act of adultery, since she was still technically waiting to be married to his third son, Sheila). By your life, I will Rescue through your merit three for your descendents from fire.” Who are they? Chanania, Mishael and Azaria (see Daniel 3).

Not only is this interpretation of R. Shimon HeChasid’s insight into the incident that distinguished Yehuda from the rest of the tribes directly stated in Sota 10b, it is even implied in Sota 37a in the alternate view to R. Yehuda’s presentation of Nachshon’s heroism.

Sota 37a

(Also in response to the question, “What is it that Yehuda did?”)

R. Meir said: When the Israelites stood by the Sea of Reeds, the tribes fought with one another, each wishing to descend into the sea first. Then sprang forward the tribe of Binyamin and descended first into the sea, as it is said, (Tehillim 68:28) “There is Binyamin the youngest ‘Rohdam’ (lit. their ruler)…” Don’t read the word “their ruler” but rather “Rad Yam” (descended into the sea.)[12] Thereupon the princes of Yehuda hurled stones at them, as it is said, (Ibid.) “…Yehuda ‘Rigmatam’ (lit. their counsel, but according to R. Meir’s interpretation, their hurling)…”

A dispute re the level of faith in HaShem of the Jewish people at that moment.

On one level, the dispute between R. Yehuda and R. Meir can be understood to be about the state of faith in HaShem of the Jews when they were deathly afraid of being either killed by the Egyptian army bearing down upon them from the rear, or drowned in the sea that loomed directly in front of them. R. Meir posits that many wished to enter the sea and it was only a question of who would be given the honor to go first, Nachshon thereby not playing any sort of unique role in the events that transpire.[13] R. Yehuda then counters that no one had the requisite courage aside from Nachshon alone, and he consequently becomes distinguished from that point going forward as a symbol of how faith in HaShem ought to manifest itself. From a simple reading of the verses in the story in Shemot, at least with respect to the lack of courage on the parts of everyone including the overwhelming majority of the tribe of Yehuda, R. Yehuda would appear to be closer to the truth.

Shemot 14:10-12

And when Pharoah drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, Egypt marched after them, and they were very much afraid.

And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moshe: Because there were no graves in Egypt have you taken us out to die in the desert? Why have you treated us this way and taken us out of Egypt?

Is this not what we told you in Egypt, saying: Leave us alone that we may serve Egypt. For it would be better for us to serve Egypt than to die in the desert.

Then again the Tannaitic dispute could be about the qualities deemed necessary for leading the Jewish people.

But on another level, the argument between R. Meir and R. Yehuda could be about leadership. Who is most qualified to be the progenitor of kings, and, for that matter, accomplishes the greatest Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name)—the individual who shows immense faith and courage during wartime, personified by Nachshon, or the individual who is able to swallow his pride when confronted with a potentially humiliating situation, and nevertheless do the right thing, as in the case of Yehuda admitting his complicity in Tamar’s degradation? It is clear that a Jewish king is expected to be a warrior and have uncompromising faith in HaShem. First the Shoftim (judges) and then the Melachim (kings) are constantly leading the Jewish people into battle against enemies who attempt to subjugate them religiously, economically and politically. But kings also have to possess a powerful sense of humility in order to assure that their power does not go to their heads, and that they not come to abuse their positions of authority for personal gain and pleasure particularly on the domestic front when so many temptations for corruption present themselves not only daily, but even hourly.

It is quite understandable why R. Meir in Sota 37a would prefer to hold Yehuda up as a model for Kiddush HaShem and, by extension, Jewish leadership. The information regarding Nachshon is at best tenuous and highly speculative. In fact, R. Meir’s case would appear to be so strong, that one wonders why R. Yehuda rejects this approach and prefers to promote Nachshon as the exemplar of Kiddush HaShem.  Perhaps R. Yehuda’s view arises from the opposite problem that R. Meir has with Nachshon, i.e., rather than knowing too little about Nachshon, we know too much about Yehuda. Granted, Yehuda eventually acts nobly with respect to Tamar. However, his failure to return Yosef to Yaakov, compounded by suggesting that they sell their brother into slavery (Beraishit 37:27) could be viewed as canceling, if not outweighing Yehuda’s public admission with respect to his daughter-in-law. Precisely because we only know a single thing about Nachshon, and are unaware of any “skeletons in his closet”, he becomes a more desirable paradigm, at least in the view of R. Yehuda.

Integrating R. Meir with R. Yehuda.

A final perspective appears to combine both R. Meir and R. Yehuda’s views.

Midrash Tehillim, Psalm 76

“Why did Yehuda merit kingship?” This question was asked by   students to R. Tarfon in the shade of the pigeon coup in Yavneh. He replied, “Because he (Yehuda) confessed regarding the incident with Tamar.” They said, “His confession makes up for his sexual intimacy with her (but not that he should be the source of kings.)” He said, “Because he didn’t allow the brothers to kill Yosef” (Beraishit 37:26). They said, “His saving Yosef’s life makes up for his subsequently suggesting that Yosef be sold (but not that he should be the source of kings.)” He said, “Because he offered to become Yosef’s slave in place of Binyamin” (Beraishit 44:33). They said to him, “Since he guaranteed Binyamin’s return to Yaakov (Beraishit 43:9), this offer is simply fulfilling his legal responsibility, as opposed to being particularly meritorious.” He said to them, “So what is Yehuda’s merit? Because he (Nachshon) leaped into the waves of the sea. All of the tribes were standing, and no one was entering the sea, for each one was saying, “I will go first”, “I will go first.” In the meantime, Binyamin wanted to go first. There came Nachshon ben Aminadav together with his tribe (Yehuda), and they pelted them with stones and he leaped in before them and he sank into the depths of the sea…And he made peace with the Holy One Blessed Be He, and he sanctified His Name, and he went down, and by the merit of this he merited the kingship, as it is said, (Tehillim 114:2) “Hayta Yehuda LeKadsho” (lit. and Yehuda became His Sanctuary, but in the context of the Midrash, and Yehuda sanctified Him). Therefore (Ibid.) “Yisrael Mamshelotav” (lit. Israel is His [HaShem’s] kingdom, but in the context of the Midrash, Israel is Yehuda’s kingdom).

It seems that for R. Tarfon, Yehuda’s personal example with respect to Tamar is the preferred reason for why kings should stem from him and his tribe. However, due to other morally ambiguous actions, a single, incontrovertible act has to be identified as the ultimate justification, and this is the act attributed to Nachshon, however imprecise the supporting documentation for such a contention may be.

Conclusion.

Whether or not Nachshon actually jumped into the sea before anyone else, nevertheless the example that is implied by such a story helps to “set the bar” for the fulfillment of Kiddush HaShem and it should not only inspire the kind of self-sacrifice on behalf of God and nation that leaders ought to exemplify, but also the manner in which each of us approaches the myriad communal responsibilities and opportunities that come our way.


[1] While the names of the princes at the beginning of BaMidbar are identical with those who offer sacrifices in Parashat Naso (BaMidbar 7:12, 17, 18, 23, 24, 29, 30, 35, 36, 41, 42, 47, 48, 53, 54, 59, 60, 65, 66, 71, 72, 77, 78, 83) the order has been changed from BaMidbar 1, the sequence of tribes offering “Korbanot” being: 3) Yehuda, 4) Yissachar, 5) Zevulun, 1) Reuven, 2) Shimon, 11) Gad, 6) Ephraim, 7) Menashe, 8) Binyamin, 9) Dan, 10) Asher, 12) Naftali).

These men are clearly distinct from those who are sent as part of the delegation of spies, even though in BaMidbar 13:2 the term “Nasi” is associated with these individuals as well, and once again they are presented in still another order:

BaMidbar 13:4-15

1) Reuven—Shamua ben Zakur; 2) Shimon—Shafat ben Chori; 3) Yehuda—Kalev ben Yefune; 4) Yisachar—Yigal ben Yosef; 6) Ephraim—Hoshea ben Nun; 8) Binyamin—Palti ben Rafu; 5) Zevulun—Gadiel ben Sodi; 7) Menashe—Gadi ben Susi; 9) Dan—Amiel ben Gamli; 10) Asher—Setur ben Michael; 12) Naftali—Nachbi ben Vafsi; 11) Gad—Gemuel ben Machi.

BaMidbar 25:14 refers to Zimri ben Salu, who sinned with the Midianite woman Kozbi bat Tzur, as a “Nasi Beit Av” (a prince of a household) of the tribe of Shimon, a name that has not been mentioned before with respect to Shimon.

A final list of “Nesi’im” appears in BaMidbar 34, where plans are made to divide the land of Israel among the various tribes, and one more variant order appears.

BaMidbar 34:18-28

3) Yehuda—Kalev ben Yefune; 2) Shimon—Shlumiel ben Amihud (the first name is the same as in 1:6, but not the second); 8) Binyamin—Elidad ben Kislon; 9) Dan—Buki ben Yagli; 7) Menashe—Chaniel ben Efod; 6) Ephraim—Kemuel ben Shifton; 5) Zevulun—Elitzafon ben Parnoch; 4) Yisachar—Paltiel ben Azan; 10) Asher—Achihud ben Shlomi; 12) Naftali—Pedael ben Amihud.

(Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe opted for inhabiting the land conquered from Sichon and Og—see BaMidbar 32—and therefore no one is listed to represent these two whole tribes in BaMidbar 34.)

While it could be contended that with regard to the last list in BaMidbar 34, which reflects the state of affairs at the end of the forty years of wandering in the desert, one “Nasi” has been replaced by another due to the deaths of practically the entire generation of the Exodus, or nevertheless, when BaMidbar 1, 7, and 13 are taken together, they more likely suggest that there was not necessarily a single individual at a given time who was the exclusive “Nasi” of a tribe, but rather several individuals simultaneously were entitled to such a title.

[2] Although it is clear that a single order for presenting the tribes and their “Nesi’im” is not to be found in BaMidbar, the original order of the tribes in BaMidbar 1 could be expected to follow the birth order of the individuals from whom the tribes derived: 1) (Beraishit 29:32) Reuven; 2) (Ibid. 33) Shimon; 3) (Ibid. 34) Levi; 4) (Ibid. 35) Yehuda; 5) (Ibid. 30:6) Dan; 6) (Ibid. 8) Naftali; 7) (Ibid. 11) Gad; 8) (Ibid. 13) Asher; 9) (Ibid. 18) Yissachar; 10) (Ibid. 20) Zevulun; 11) (Ibid. 24) Yosef (= Ephraim and Menashe, since Yosef was split into two tribes by Yaakov—Ibid. 48:5); 12) (Ibid. 35:18) Binyamin. The only two differences from the original birth order and BaMidbar 1 are that the children of the wives, Leah and Rachel, are separated from the children of the handmaidens, Bilha and Zilpa, and the children of Bilha and Zilpa are not recorded in BaMidbar 1 in the order that they were born according to Beraishit.  Levi is counted separately, does not present Korbanot and other donations at the dedication of the Mishkan, is not represented among the spies, and does not get a specific portion of the land of Israel. Consequently, the Nasi for Levi is not listed among the lists of the men representing the other tribes.)

[3] The only others to stand out in terms of their noteworthiness on any of the lists that have been cited above as well as in fn. 1 are the two spies who supported HaShem and Moshe by bringing back positive reports concerning the ability of the Jews to conquer Israel, Kalev ben Yefune and Hoshea (a.k.a. Yehoshua) ben Nun (BaMidbar 13:6, 8). Whereas Yehoshua had already publicly demonstrated his loyalty to Moshe earlier on (see Shemot 33:11), Kalev’s sympathies are unknown until he publicly reports what he had seen in Israel in BaMidbar 13:30. However, if the earlier Nasi for Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav, proves himself to be devoted to HaShem at the Sea of Reeds, perhaps it was not such a surprise that the later Nasi, Kalev ben Yefune, ultimately does likewise.

[4] In terms of Nachshon’s importance as compared to the other “Nesi’im” it could be noted that he is the first to give an offering during the dedication of the Mishkan as recorded in BaMidbar 7. However, as mentioned in fn. 1 (see above), the order of the “Nesi’im” in their various listings in the Tora is inconsistent. Midrash Lekach Tov (cited by Tora Shleima, ed. R. Menachem Kasher, vol. 36, p. 15, #74) writes, “You will find that the tribes are not listed in the same manner each time, but rather once this one is mentioned first, another time a different one is mentioned first. This is in order to teach you that all of them are of equal importance before HaShem. And so it is stated, (Beraishit 49:28) ‘All of these are tribes of Israel, twelve.’” Consequently, while from the perspective of BaMidbar 7, Nachshon’s being the first contributor is significant, the implications are lessened when taking into consideration all of the various listings throughout the Tora.

[5] For central characters, such as Avraham (Nachor, Haran—Beraishit 11:26), Yitchak/Yishmael, Rivka (Lavan—Beraishit 24:29), Yaakov/Eisav, Rachel/Leah, Yaakov’s children, and Moshe/Aharon/Miriam, information concerning siblings is significant with respect to the stories of their lives. This is less readily apparent when dealing with Elisheva, who is only mentioned in passing. (Of course if one accepts the Rabbinic interpretation that Shifra, one of the two midwives who saved Jewish children—see RaShI on Shemot 1:15—was actually Yocheved, then it may be significant that both she and her brother were capable of heroism on behalf of the Jewish people in the face of grave danger.)

[6] It would seem from the mention of Aharon’s marriage to Elisheva already in Shemot 6 that it well preceded the miracle of the splitting of the sea described in Shemot 14. Consequently, Nachshon’s importance at the time of his sister’s wedding would seem to have been due to his status as a “Nasi”, rather than anything that he had already done publicly to win the people’s admiration.

[7] RaShI on Sota explains that all of the letters of the Tetragrammaton are contained in Yehuda’s name, i.e., “Yud”, “Heh” “Vav” “Daled” “Heh”.

[8] One must keep in mind that such an interpretation attributes prophecy to Leah, who gives her fourth child a name which it only turns out later contains the letters of the Tetragrammaton. Since this particular Divine Name is apparently first revealed to Moshe long after Yehuda’s birth in Shemot 3:14-5; 6:3, either some sort of Divine Inspiration is assumed to have motivated Leah to choose this name based upon what either Yehuda himself would do in the future (see Sota 10b below), or the deeds of one of his offspring, Nachshon. While the Tora mentions Leah’s overt reason for choosing the name Yehuda in Beraishit 29:35, as in so many instances, it is assumed that any given word can have multiple meanings, if not simultaneously, than in different times and places.

[9] The earliest instance of the double entendre of “Reish” “Daled” either connoting rulership (“Redui”) or descent (“Yerida”) is advanced by RaShI on Beraishit 1:26—“’VeYirdu’ (lit. And you will rule) over the fish of the sea”: Within this term there is to be found the language of rulership as well as the language of descent. If man is worthy, he will rule over the undomesticated and domesticated creatures; if he is not worthy, he will descend from before him and the animals will rule over him.

[10] In Shemot 14:15, HaShem Reprimands Moshe and Says, “Why are you calling out to Me?” implying that Moshe was engaged in prayer, and HaShem Wished him to do something else. This type of interpretation is reminiscent of Shemot 32:10 where HaShem Tells Moshe, “And now leave Me alone, and I will Take out My Anger upon them and will Destroy them”, which is interpreted by commentators as an invitation to Moshe to intervene and “prevent” HaShem from carrying out this plan. Apparently there are times when prayer is in order and times when it is not, and HaShem Attempts to orient Moshe in this regard.

11E.g., Tehillim 3:7 “I will not be afraid of the tens of thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about”; Ibid. 11:2 “For the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot in darkness at the upright in heart”; Ibid. 22:17 “For dogs have encompassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me, they seize my hands and my feet like a lion.”

[12] The Talmud’s word play with regard to “Rohdam”, where the one word is split into two, is part of Midrashic and Aggadic license. When one assumes that the Tora’s meanings are infinite since the words of the Tora originate from an Infinite Source, creative possibilities of interpretation of the Tora’s words are always deemed possible and expected. Word play interpretation even seems to have application in the Halachic realm, as evidenced from Sanhedrin 4b, in which R. Akiva is quoted to the effect that the word “LeTotafot” (Devarim 6:8; 11:18) which is a reference to the phylacteries that are to be placed upon the head, can be split into two words, “Tot” meaning 2 in the “Katpi” language, and “Fot” meaning 2 in the “Afriki” language, resulting in a basis for installing four separate compartments in the Tefillin Shel Rosh.

[13] If Nachshon is the Nasi of the tribe of Yehuda, then it is possible to attribute to him some blame for the stone throwing incident, which does not appear to be very honorable or spiritual for that matter. The commentary Eitz Yosef #93 (Ein Yaakov on Sota 37b) explains that several tribes thought that it was their particular right to exhibit leadership at the sea: Yehuda believed that it was entitled to be first because of the promise of kingship. Binyamin claimed that since HaShem Commanded that Bnai Yisrael were to enter the sea (Shemot 14:15), and Binyamin was the only son born to Yaakov after his name had been changed to “Yisrael” (Beraishit 32:29), they qualified for the honor. Zevulun and Naftali laid claim to the fact that the sea figured prominently in either the blessing that Yaakov had given their tribe (Beraishit 49:13) or the portion of land upon which they would ultimately reside (Devarim 33:23). It could be argued that Yehuda’s stone throwing was not meant to be obnoxious, but rather to protect its interests from being supplanted by another group, as had happened to Reuven who was replaced by Yosef. As a reflection of the potency of the act of jumping into the sea first, Iyun Yaakov (Ain Yaakov on Sota 37b) suggests that the reason why Israel’s first king, Shaul, derives from Binyamin was because of Binyamin’s initiative at the
Sea of Reeds.

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