Parshat Beshalach


First Portion

JEWISH PRIDE!!!! One cannot help but to get excited when reading Parshat Beshalach. G-d showed Pharaoh and the Egyptians who’s boss!! Then we made our long antici-pated exodus out of Egypt. The Israelites left with pride and dignity; they left by daylight and not sneaking out at night; we left when G-d wanted, not when Pharaoh wanted. G-d took pride in us and took us out in first class; HE chose the Jewish people to be his ambassadors in this world; we are the reason the world exist. Mark Twain, a classic American writer, had anti-Semitic views which were quite well known, as he wrote numerous unsavory articles about the Jews. However, he was quite impressed with their accomp-lishments. Twain writes, and I paraphrase, “many empires came and went, however, the Jews, despite all the persecution they’ve encountered in history, not only survived but their contributions to the world dwarf many other.

It’s evident that G-d wants us to be his ambassadors, He took us out of Egypt with pride, HE split the sea – one of the most astonishing acts in history, and finally, the revelation at Mount Sinai. In fact, we read at the Seder on Pesach when we sing DAYENU, EILU KEREVANU LIFNAI HAR SINAI VELO NATAN LANU ET HATORAH DAYENU – “If You, Hashem, just gave us the opportunity to stand at Mount Sinai and not even given us the Torah that would have been enough”. Just the ability to stand with pride at Mount Sinai brought on a level of spiritual high; it raised us above the rest.

The fact that we got the Torah, the fact that we got the ultimate prize, should make us feel very good about ourselves. However, with the superiority comes responsibility. The world looks at us with a magnifying glass. A survey was taken by the New York Times as to what graced the headlines most frequently. Unequivocally, besides for the USA, Jews and the State of Israel were the most frequent in the past forty years!

  • We see the selflessness and the leadership skills of Moshe. While the Israelites were busy with their personal needs in leaving Egypt, Moshe retrieved the bones of Yosef to be brought to the Promised Land as had been promised.
  • G-d led them out guided by the Cloud of Glory, which was chosen to be their tour guide until they reached the land of Israel.
  • Pharaoh, once again, has a change of heart and declares that they must return. He unleashes his army, including 600 elite chariots, and chases after the Israelites.

Second Portion:

  • The Israelites were afraid as they saw the Egyptian army in tremendous unison.
  • In his assurance to the Israelites, Moshe said ”you shall not see them again”. “Their status of superpower will be taken away and they will never be a threat again.” The Rambam (Maimonides), who lived in Egypt for a period of time, mentioned in his writings that that he lived in Egypt. He writes, “I am transgressing the commandment of ‘it’s forbidden for Jews to travel or live in Egypt on a permanent basis”’. One of the sources for this commandment is found here, ”you shall not see them again”. It’s astonishing how there was a thriving Jewish community in Alexandria many years back, which hosted one of the biggest Synagogues in Jewish history (5000 seats). The Rabbi had to raise a flag indicating that the congregants should say Amen.

Third Portion:

  • The Israelites, who had the sea in front of them and the Egyptians chasing behind them, were ordered and reassured by Moshe, via G-d, to jump into the water, for it will split and you will walk on dry land.
  • In one of the most amazing moments in history, Moshe raised his rod as ordered by G-d and the sea split!
  • G-d said to Moshe, “My name will be glorified through Pharaoh and the Egyptian army; the Egyptians will be in fear, for they will know that I am G-d”. Who will be in fear? Is it the people who stayed behind in Egypt? The ones that will be in fear are none other than the Egyptian army before they perished at sea. G-d said that it is worth it to split the sea merely to have the Egyptians soldiers realize the truth as the waters come together sealing their death. After all, how often does one have the opportunity to clearly see the truth?
  • The Israelites walked through the sea on a dry surface with walls of water to the left and right of them.
  • The Egyptian army pursued the Israelites, going through the water.

Fourth Portion:

  • After the last of the children of Israel walked through the sea, and as the whole Egyptian army were now positioned between the walls of water, G-d ordered Moshe to raise his hands once more and the water will go back to its original state. Moshe did as G-d commanded and the Egyptian army was decimated.
  • After seeing the miraculous events that G-d had done on their behalf, the Israelites had the ultimate belief in G-d and they reciprocated by singing a song, ”Az Yashir”.
  • This is the most famous of the ten songs found in the scripture.
  • There are a number of hints in the Torah about the redemption. ”Az Yashir”, i.e. “then he will sing”. The commentaries question that it should say Az Shar – and then he sang. It means, they deduce, that he will sing in the future, in the Messianic era.
  • Another explanation of ”Az Yashir” is that Moshe’s singing came naturally; it wasn’t forced. Singing is the ultimate form of appreciation that one can give G-d.
  • Many recite this song when in need of a mate and for Parnassa (livelihood). It says that it’s harder for G-d to match two people for marriage than it is the splitting of the sea. The fact that match finding and Az Yashir are linked together hints that there is tremendous merit for reciting, particularly for this purpose.
  • We learn a lesson from Miriam, Moshe’s sister. She gathered the women and they danced amongst themselves separately from the men. Our Jewish mothers and ancestors throughout history, in every continent, took pride in their modest behavior.
  • To maintain trust in G-d is brought out in these passages through the laws of ‘Chok’ (laws that have no reason, it just has to be done). At Marah, one of the stops the Jews made after leaving the sea, the water was bitter. G-d told Moshe to place the bitter tree into the bitter water and it will turn sweet. There was no logic (as opposed to the cases in Parshat Mishpatim); just do it, no questions asked.

Fifth Portion:

  • G-d introduces us to Mann, His heavenly food. Mann has characteristics of Olam Habah; it has no side effects and no relieving of you is necessary. The more spiritual one got, the better the Mann tasted. It can taste like any food you desire.
  • This is another sign of G-d’s power. Even in the wilderness, G-d provides and serves His people like they’re in heaven.

Sixth Portion:

  • Every morning, Mann was “placed at the doorstep along with the morning paper”.
  • It was not delivered on Shabbat. However, on Friday there would be a double portion.
  • Shabbat represents Olam Habah and the bread (that we say Hamotzi on) represents the Mann. This is one of the reasons why we cover the challah. If one notices, every Jewish home has a tablecloth for their Shabbat table. One reason, besides being fancy-shmancy! is that we replicate how the Mann came down to our ancestors covered with a top and a bottom layer (the tablecloth).

Seventh Portion:

  • After all the open miracles that happened to the Jews, there was a certain respect which the nations of the world had for the Israelites who represented G-d. It goes without saying that today, when the Jews have the Torah, they represent G-d as well. So when someone starts up with the Jews, they actually start up with G-d. Fresh from one of the most miraculous, hands-on, G-dly events in history, the Amalek nation had the audacity to wage war with G-d’s representatives, the Jews, and in the process desensitized the nations of the world from the awe of G-d. For this reason, Amalek is despised by G-d and orders the Israelites to wipe them out.

credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon

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