Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beshalach (בשלח) – “when (he) sent” – 5774

Beshalach (בשלח) – “when (he) sent” 5774

Torah: Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftarah: Judges 4:4-5:31    
Brit Hadasha: Matthew 5; Mark 8:1-10:31; Luke 2:22-24, John 6:25-35, 19:31-37,
1 Cor 10:1-13, 2 Cor 8:1-15, Rev 15:1-4

     From the morning (shacharit) services' reference to the parting of the Yom Suf, to Charleton Heston saying “Let my people go!”, this is one of the most popular passages in all of Torah.

     As we look at the actual wording in this parasha, the Hebrew שָׁלַח (shalach) would probably be closer to 'sent' rather than 'let go'. As we look at our lives, our human nature tends to be hard-of-heart, like Pharaoh, resistant to HaShem's directions/commands. We also tend to drag our feet, and try to compromise – 'just the men may go', instead of 'Kol Yisrael' – becomes 'I will give $X, so others can do ___.' instead of '(I will) do ____. It boils down to Pharaoh got to the point where he drove B'nai Yisrael out of Egypt, (and as some speculate planted/sent spies with them, to assure/encourage their prompt return, since good help was hard to find).

     So, why go the long way around? Going from Egypt (via the direct route) to the promised land would take them from in Egypt (with the Egyptian Army) along the main highway (guarded by Egyptian garrisons), and it would also bypass the place where HaShem told Moshe that they needed to go so that they could worship Him.

     As one Rabbi pointed out, B'nai Yisrael had different ideas about how things should be handled – some felt they should give up and jump in the sea, when Egypt came after them – similar to the attitude at Masada. Others thought they should just apologise and go back to Egypt. A third faction thought they should fight – as those in the (almost) modern Warsaw ghettos. The fourth faction felt they should pray to G-d. Moshe said they should stand firm (don't cave in), go on (don't retreat), watch (don't fight) and don't speak (be quiet, not even say prayers – you might miss what HaShem has for you).

     As HaShem had not just turned Yisrael free immediately to run back to the promised land – so that they could not only develop their own faith – but also take a mixed multitude with them, He also would not let them go straight home, so that they could learn the multitude of lessons to grow them into the subjects they should be. All were invited to the first Pesach, but there was much to learn. Isaiah, in the days of the divided kingdom speaks wisdom that all can learn from, whether in Egypt as slaves, or even now in modern times, “ . . . So now the word of Adonai . . . comes 'tzav la-tzav, tzav la-tzav' (precept by precept, precept by precept or command by command, command by command), 'kav la-kav, kav la-kav' (line by line, line by line), 'z'eir sham, z'eir sham' (a little here, a little there)” (Isaiah 28:10, 14). All lesson are cumulative, and one is to carry on, to continue growing in all aspects. As told to me plenty of times, your life is either going forward, or you are going backward. You are either developing or you are declining. 1 Cor 3 talks about the unnatural infancy of the readers, not able to accept the mature things of the spirit.

      Another Rabbi pointed out that Shmot Rabbah mentions two separate songs after the crossing of Yom Suf – one with all Israel (B'nai Yisrael), and then Miriam's song with the women (B'not Yisrael). The mention of Miriam being a Prophetess speaks of verbal tradition that she predicted that her parents would give birth to the Savior of Israel from their Egyptian slavery. This is cited as her unique qualification to lead this separate song.

It all boils down to listening to HaShem and following his Word.

Shabbat Shalom.

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