Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beshalach "When He Sent"

Shemot (Exodus) 13:17-17:16 15

HaShem's plan for believers only begins with salvation. It is a process that lasts a whole lifetime. Convincing Pharaoh to let Yisrael leave Egypt was also only the beginning of HaShem's plan for Yisrael. After leaving Egypt the main focus of HaShem's plan for Yisrael was to teach Yisrael how to worship and serve Him. The same is true for believers today. Most of HaShem's plan for believers is to train us, and change us, so that we can worship Him and serve Him. As a result, most of the Torah focuses on HaShem's instruction to His people. Beshalach displays that it is HaShem's will, to train His people to live a life dedicated to serve Him. HaShem delivered Yisrael from Egypt to train them to be His people. We can see this in Vayikra 11: 45 which states "I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Clearly after delivering Yisrael, holiness becomes HaShem's focus. However, HaShem knows that holiness does not come easy. Holiness is a continuous struggle. As followers of Yeshua, we must also confront the struggle to be holy everyday of our lives. In Beshalach we can learn that to overcome the struggle to be holy requires surrender and implementation.

While walking in HaShem's ways, we must first learn to surrender. Surrender involves not giving into feelings and influences that affect our relationship with HaShem. Two influences discussed in Beshalach that fall into this category are, pride and fear. Pride can be seen in Pharaoh's actions toward Yisrael. Pharaoh's pride allowed His heart to be hardened. In fact, as ruler of Egypt Pharaoh was prideful enough to consider himself a god, and to require his followers to worship him. As a result, Pharaoh would not surrender his heart. Therefore, when HaShem began to deliver Yisrael Pharaoh became angry and hardened. We can see this in Shemot 14:5 which states "And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" Pharaoh and all Egypt became infuriated by the thought that the Egyptians were no longer going to be served by Yisrael. As a result, Pharaoh formed an army to pursue and stop Yisrael. Pharaoh wanted Yisrael to remain in bondage, thereby proving he was stronger than HaShem. Ultimately, Pharaoh's refusal to surrender his pride became his downfall. Pharaoh's pride had become a consuming force that kept Pharaoh from admitting that HaShem was the one and only G-d. Like Pharaoh, believers can also make wrong spiritual decisions by allowing pride to interfere. When pride interferes, we can become hardened and not willing to listen to the instruction of HaShem, the advice of wisdom. It is easy to become self-righteous, and allow our pride to interfere with our relationship with HaShem.

In Beshalach, we can also see how giving into fear affects a relationship with HaShem. After HaShem's great miracle of deliverance from bondage, Yisrael was still fearful. Shemot 14:12 states "Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." At the seashore Yisrael is overcome with fear. Yisrael blames Moshe for bringing more hardships on them. The children of Yisrael are afraid that the G-d that delivered them from bondage is not powerful enough to protect them from the Egyptian army. As a result, Yisrael's relationship with HaShem is affected because they doubt His ability. Pride and fear hurt our relationship with HaShem. Fear breeds doubt, and pride breeds haughtiness. Surrendering these feelings by not acting on them, allows or relationship with HaShem to flourish.

Another major struggle for believers is learning to implement what HaShem commands. When carry out the commandments that HaShem gives us we are protected from and brought through the afflictions of the rest of the world. In Beshalach HaShem promises Yisrael they will be protected if they make His commandments part of their lives. Shemot 15:26 states "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the L-RD that healeth thee." We can see that HaShem wanted Yisrael to keep His commandments for their own protection. In other words, implementation of the commandments was not a curse, but it was a blessing that was designed to keep Yisrael healthier than the surrounding nations. Therefore, implementing HaShem's commandments should be a joy, since they are blessings that protect us from the problems of the world. We can also see that implementation guarantees a weekly rest in Him. In fact, Shemot 16:28-30 says "it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day." Implementation of a rest on the seventh day is a blessing, Rest allows us to emulate HaShem. In other words, HaShem commanded Yisrael to rest on the seventh day, since He also rested on the seventh day. Therefore, by implementing the word of HaShem, Yisrael can enter the rest of HaShem. Unfortunately, when people went out to gather the manna on Shabbat, they neglected to enter HaShem's rest. Looking at the example of Yisrael, we see that by implementing the commandments of HaShem in our life we can be protected from affliction. As a result, living by HaShem's commandments helps us enter the rest of HaShem.

Through the study of Beshalach, we can see that deliverance from Egypt was only the beginning for Yisrael. The largest part of HaShem's plan involved transforming Yisrael into individuals willing to serve Him. Beshalach makes it clear that our transformation is not easy, and we must overcome struggles to become servants. Beshalach teaches us we need to surrender negative feelings like pride and fear, and implement positive action to improve our relationship with HaShem and enter His rest.

By Rabbi Yaakov benYosef ­ ABOUT Torah
© 2010 About Torah

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rabbi Yaakov & Rabbi Yehoshua

    There are many great explanations in your commentaries. I would like to compliment you on one highly controversial and much debated aspect of the deity of HaShem, the one and only G-d.

    You have expressed it in the most understanble way over and above even all the great commentators down through the ages that I have been reading about.

    This is HaShem's expression in scripture of " hardening heart " with reference to his dealing with Pharaoh in freeing the peoples from an evil regime.

    Your comment " when HaShem began to deliver Yisrael Pharaoh became angry and hardened ".

    This for me separates HaShem's act in the first instance of compassion, in seeking to free from an evil regime caused an evil heart to react causing more suffering to those who follow him.

    Pharoah could have stopped and thought with repentance in mind and humbled himself to HaShem but instead thought he was higher than G-d and so acted wrongly each time.

    The important point here in understanding this whole episode is firstly and act of Grace and goodness by a Holy G-d of HaShem thus causing a Tyrant to have to do something in response.

    This if I may say relates to modern day with such phenomena as and evil UN document such as the Goldstone Report and also the actual State of Israel who is causing those same evil hearts to react once again.

    Best wishes to you all

    George Hobbs