Parshas Beshalach – Finally the Exodus

A few tidbits about this week’s Torah portion…

This week the Torah reading is Parshas Bashalach.  This week is also called Shabbos Shira, the Shabbos of Song.  This is because in this week’s Parsha we find the Az Yashir, the song that the Jews sang after the splitting of the sea.

When Paroh sent out the nation, G-d led them on a circuitous route so they would not have the ease to run back to Egypt right away when they get scared.  Use that strategy when trying to outwit our weaker nature – distance yourself from your temptations and pitfalls so it isn’t that easy to get to a place of failing.

V. 19 – “Vayeekach Moshe..Eemo” and Moshe took the bones of Yosef with himThe Mitzvos we do are the only things we are able to take “with us” beyond our own lifetimes.  That gorgeous dress you might have…gets left behind after a few years.  That charity money you gave, that you take with you forever.  That favor you did for someone, that stays for eternity.  So the Jews collected riches to take with them, but eventually they spent it, used it, lost it.  Moshe focused on doing the Mitzvah and he gets to always have that.

G-d led them with a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.

CHAPTER 14:  After they got a bit away from Egypt, G-d told Moshe to tell the Jews to retract and go back toward Egypt.  The amazing thing is that the Jews did so – they didn’t question and didn’t let fear take hold.  At this point, they had total faith and did it although it made no logical sense to them.

Paroh counts off three days and then decides he wants the Jews back.  Chapter 14, verse 6:   Paroh hitched his chariot – he personally set up his chariot.  Nothing stood in his way and he didn’t wait for his servants.  “V’ess ahmoh Lukach Eemoh” [and his nation he took with him].  Rashi:  He took them by persuasion, he talked them into joining him.  What got them motivated?  Money.  Wealth makes folks do things that are so risky and they know are so risky.  They just suffered ten plagues, begged the king to get rid of the Jews, chased the Jews out…but three days later Paroh explains that they ought to be chasing after the wealth, and, boom, he had them.  We must always ask ourselves if we are rushing into disaster after money.

He assembled an army with him and got a fleet of horses.  Rashi asks where did they get the animals from – and the answer is that the steeds were supplied by the “G-d fearing” Egyptians who had saved their animals (if you remember, in a previous Parsha, the Egyptians were warned of the hail plague and those who “feared G-d” at that point, put their animals into barns to save them while all the other animals out in the fields got killed).  Their “fear of G-d” lasted only as long as the plagues, and then it was, okay, let’s use what we saved to go against the will of G-d.  We must remember never to be like those fools.  If we learn a lesson about G-d’s providence, we must remember that lesson way beyond the time it happened and keep the perspective throughout our lives.

Ever hear the term, between a rock and a hard place, it was penned for what happened now.  The Jews are on the shore of a sea and there are two rocks on each side of them so they can’t run anywhere…and then the Egyptians approach from the back.

And the Jews “cried out to Hashem”.  So far so good.  They davened, which was great.  But then, instead of relying on the prayer, they began complaining.  V.11 “Are there not enough graves in Egypt that you had to take us to die here in the desert?”  The  bitterness sets in, now, which is NOT okay.

Moshe responds to them:  “Don’t be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of Hashem”

Moshe is davening to Hashem and Hashem says, now is not the time to prolong in prayer.  It is time to act, the Jews should march forward into the sea, which will split.  What is going on – why shouldn’t Moshe daven?  To pray or not to pray, that is the question, and how are we to know when to employ prayer and when to act?  We are taught that until your prayer is answered, keep davening.  So why is Moshe told to stop davening now?  The Ohr Hachayim explains the way of Heaven – there is Middas Rachamim and Midas HaDin – an Attribute of Mercy and an Attribute of Justice.  At this point, the sea was told to split and save the Jews.  But the angels protested – the reasoning was, according to justice, the Jews sinned, as did the Egyptians.  Why save one over the other?  Up until now, they had the merit of the Korban Pesach, but now they negated it by complaining against G-d, so in strict justice, they had no merit to invoke mercy.  Therefore, G-d told Moshe, prayer won’t help.  The Jews need an extra merit – march forward into the still wet sea.  The Jews inch forward, giving them the beginning of the merit of their salvation.  One man actually marches straight into the sea while it was still unsplit, and then…

Moshe is told to stretch out his hand over the sea.  Overnight, the Jews are camped there and Moshe was stretching out his hand, and a strong east wind came and pushed back the water.  The man who had waded in was at that point up to his nostrils in water.   He didn’t back down, so sure was he in salvation.  Do we have it in us to believe even as we wade in deeper and deeper?

There are those who want to debunk historical accounts.  They cannot do away with the story of the splitting of the sea as there are archeological records that refer to it, so they try to do away with G-d through science, saying that the moon pulled the tide way off that night.  G-d does miracles with nature.  In fact, the verse talks about a mighty strong wind being involved.  But when you see  how nature “lined up its time of splitting” with the exact moment that the Jews were going to be attacked shows how idiotic this claim of debunking G-d is.  Nature is a tool G-d uses and manipulates to bring punishment, reward and miraculous salvations.

The waters split into varied tunnels, each tribe had their own pathway.  The water was like blown crystal and there were fresh water fountains inside.  By marching forward, the Jews created the Zechus [merit] they needed to save them.  Daven, yes.  But at times, when davening is not being answered, it might be because we need an extra merit to get the answer to the Tefillos.  At that time, we should “march forward” and find ourselves a merit.

The Egyptians follow the Jews into the sea – when the last Jew comes out of the sea, the last Egyptian stepped in and the water crashes down again on the Egyptians.   The Mitzriyim were so focused on their evil, they did not stop to think, “hey, a sea just split, shouldn’t we think what it means before plunging in….”  Make sure we are never so focused on our Yetzer Hara that we ignore signs that we are doing wrong.

The splitting of the sea was not straight across.  It was actually a semi-circle split, as the Jews went in and came out on the same side of the sea.

Verse 30:  and the Jews saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore – the sea spat out the dead bodies to reassure the Jews that their enemies were dead and so that the Jews could collect booty off the dead men.

Chapter 15:  Then Moshe sang. We have to sing songs of thanks to G-d

What follows in the next verses is the prayer of Az Yasheer.  First of all, it opens with something weird it says, “az” then “Yasheer” which means he will then sing – future tense.  Really it should say, Az Shar  – then he sang, in the past tense.  It is a hint of the future, that just as we sang the song at this salvation, our nation will get to sing again such a song when Moshiach comes.

{aside:  a note about Shirah – there are only ten times mankind will ever sing.  Nine times those songs have been sung, one more time will be when Moshiach comes.  Song of Shira is only when folks realize their connection to G-d and know their task in His world.}

Verse 1: “soos v’rohchvoh rahmah ba’yam” horse and rider He threw in the sea”  RASHI:  even as they were bobbing up and down and drowning, horse and rider stayed together.  That is the way they lived their lives – identity through their steeds, so G-d killed them that way.  Those who identify themselves with their Mercedes van or Lamborghini so that they don’t know where they as a person start and end, will end up destroyed together with their “extended” personality.

It then describes how the Egyptians drowned, and there were different descriptions.  We learn that even in their punishments, it wasn’t one measure for all.  Each person gets exactly what is due them. Therefore, those who harmed the Jews but were not torturers, they sank like “lead” right straight down, quick death.  Then there were those sank a bit slower, like stones.  Those who delighted in torturing us, they sank like “straw” bobbing about, their death prolonged until they got full measure torture for what they had dealt out.

Verse 20: and Miriam took an instrument in her hand.  She had told the women to bring along instruments before they left Egypt because she knew they would have time to sing because G-d would do miracles.  That is the power of belief in G-d, trusting He will do salvations for you.  Another interesting thing to note is that in the verses, it says that Miriam began dancing and singing – and the other women joined in.  We learn from this that doing the right, spiritual thing, you don’t have to convince others to do it too – just from your example, others will be moved to do the right thing.

Talmud Sotah (quoted by Rashi) shows the laws of modesty were in place.  Moshe was singing with the men, Miriam with the women.  Even in our joy, we have to make sure we don’t lose a sense of propriety.  That is why during Simchas Bais Hashoeva in the times of the Temple, they made sure that there were separate sections for the men and women.

The Jews had to be forced to leave that place – they were too intent in trying to get booty.  They then traveled in the desert and didn’t find water.  Then, they came to a place Marah where there was water, but they couldn’t drink it (verse 23) “because they were bitter”  – the commentators note that it doesn’t say that the water was bitter, but that they were bitter.  Let us look at that string of events and locations again.  They got intent on booty – – got focused on materialism and collecting money.  They were so wrapped up in it, they couldn’t budge or focus on anything else.  Therefore, after that experience it was a desert with no water.  Water signifies Torah — when folks get wrapped up in materialism, often, they do so in a way that blocks spirituality, the life-giving force of G-dliness within us.  Eventually that leads to a place of bitterness, a sense of “life is so not fair”.

The Jews begin complaining.  Moshe davened and G-d showed him a tree he had to throw into the water, which made the water sweet.  Hashem gave a few mitzvos here – Shabbos, Para Aduma and laws of justice.  We say in our prayers “eitz chayim hee” the Torah is a tree of life.  What G-d is telling Moshe here is to give the Jews some healing by giving them some Torah insights and observance.

So a quick review of what is going on here.  Jews get caught up in physicality (scavenging around for booty) and don’t want to move past that stage of gathering wealth.  Moshe pushes them onwards and they don’t find “water”, they don’t search for spirituality.  That, in turn makes them bitter, which in turn doesn’t let them access what they need.  Once they are taught new pathways in spirituality, they can actually have both physical and spiritual taste “sweet.”   Ah, refreshing lifestyle!

They move on to Ailim and found twelve springs of water (for each tribe) and 70 palm trees (for each leader), and they camped there.    With newfound lessons, they realize there is unity, for they realize each one of them has access to G-dliness in a unique, personalized way.  [I fear that is lacking in our generation — the ability to see that there are “twelve springs” and “seventy palm trees” —  that each group within Torah observancy, from Chassid to Misnagid, have equal validity in spirituality.]

Now they move on to Sin Desert and they run out of Matza.  So they begin complaining, yet again.  You have to understand something – it would have been perfectly fine to ask for help, to pray for help.  What they do wrong is complain and speak with attitude when they are in danger.

The Mann descends.  The Jews had never seen anything like it and they ask, “mann Hu” – what is it?”  However, it could be read, they said “mann hu”  It is what.  According to the Modziter Rebbe, if you rearrange the letters, you get the word Emunah – they acknowledged that the Mann taught them about faith in G-d.

Mann was given each day according to a person’s deeds.  If he was good, it was handed to him on his doorstep.  The worse he was, the further he had to walk to get it.  No leftovers would be able to remain – it would turn wormy, if they tried to hoard it.  They had day-to-day existence.  Shabbos there would be no Mann, so on Friday they collect double portions..  That is why we use double loaves for our meals on Shabos, to signify the double Mann portions, and why we have a custom to have a layer under the Challa and above the Challa, for the Mann came sandwiched between dew to keep fresh.

Techum Shabbos – cannot travel outside of the camp to get the Mann.  Halacha L’Maasah (practical applications of the law) is that on Shabbat we cannot walk beyond 2000 amos (which is about one kilometer) out of the city boundaries.

The Jews were told no Mann would fall on Shabbos, but Dasan and Aviram try to make a liar out of Moshe by putting out Mann Friday night so that it would look like it feel on Shabbos.  The birds came and ate it before the Jews woke up.  Therefore, we have a custom this week to put out crumbs for the birds on Erev Shabbos..  HALACHA L’MAASEH [law in practice]– you have to put the crumbs out early enough for the birds to eat it on Friday since we are not allowed to feed wild animals on Shabbos.

Aron fills a jar with an Omer of Mann to keep in every generation to show just in case folks say, what will the kollel people live on and eat.

Chapter 17 – the Jews move on to Refidim and there was no water there.  And the folks gang up against Moshe and complain again.  Now Moshe tells G-d, “what should I do with this nation, soon they’ll stone me.”  Verse 5:  G-d tells moshe “avoor lifnay Ha’am” pass in front of the folks.  RASHI:  G-d said, Moshe what are you talking Lashon Harah about my kids- they will not stone you.  Go and see.  They might kvetch, they might scream, but they are not folks who stone.

G-d tells Moshe to take his stick and go with the elders to a rock and he has to hit the rock and the rock will give forth water which the people could drink.  Where was the rock located – by Har Sinai.

Then Amalek came and fought with the Jews.  Amalek only comes when we mess up.  Moshe stands on a mountain and lifts his hands heavenwards – while the Jews fight back.  Whilst his hands are pointed upwards, the Jews are victorious and when he weakened and his hands drooped, the tide of battle turned.  Which mountain was he on – Har Sinai.  Was Moshe’s hands deciding the battle?  No – as long as he pointed his hands upwards, the folks looked up and glimpsed the sky and remembered “Ezree May’im Hashem” – that saving comes from Hashem, and so the battle went well.  However, when Moshe’s hands slipped downwards, folks thought the battle was up to us earthlings and then things were bad.  To win fights in our life, our thoughts have to be “kashur l’ma’alah” be focused on Hashem.

If you look at the trials and tribulations the Jews went through, they were going through training for accepting the Torah.  They first had to see the dead Egyptians, to realize they were masters of themselves and that G-d fought and saved them based on their merits.  They then had to see physical sustenance comes from G-d.  Then, finally, they had to see that even when miracles are cloaked in natural events (i.e. when they fight their own battles) the outcome is still dependent on Hashem and on their acceptance of Torah.

We then end off the Parsha with the fact that even though Amalek lost this war, they will continue through generations of fighting the concept of G-d until Yemos Hamashiach, until G-d will finally wipe them out totally.

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About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
This entry was posted in Jewish Thought, Jewish Weekly Torah Reading, Jews in Desert, Parsha and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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