Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Beshalach - 5776

My friends,

In this Parasha you will find some great events - the Crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of Manna, the laws of Shabbat and the attack by Amalek.

Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz points out that this portion containing 116 verses, and is divided exactly into two parts. The first 58 verses describe the Exodus from Egypt, Pharaoh's pursuit of the Israelites and the parting of the water. The last 58 verses describe the challenges they encounter in this new world of freedom - thirst, hunger, war, the giving of Manna and the laws of Shabbat.

As we read this Parasha we feel the exaltation that the Children of Israel must have felt, having been saved from Pharaoh's army and witnessing the great miracle of the sea opening up for them to cross to the other side while the same sea engulfs and destroys the pursuing Egyptians. This story concludes that, having seen all this, the Children of Israel believed in G-d and in Moses His servant.

The first half might be called the world of miracles. Because of what they saw, the Children of Israel reached a very high level of faith in G-d. They were totally convinced of G-d's providence and protection over them and how Moses was the true messenger of G-d.

The second half of this Parasha, however, describes an entirely different world, Just three days after the great event, when the Israelites ran out of water and the only water that was available was bitter, they complained to Moses. A month later when they ran out of food, they complained to Moses and Aaron saying they were better off in Egypt, and why did they bring them to this wilderness, where they might die form hunger. This is when G-d provides them with the daily Manna and they are told of the laws of Shabbat. This Parasha ends with Amalek, a nomadic tribe that comes from nowhere, attacks and initiates a war with israel.

I believe that there is an important lesson for us in this Parasha. No matter how strong our faith and our level of spirituality, we must always balance it with the real world. The real world is one of ongoing challenges in earning a living, in sharing with others, in helping those around us and our community. This parasha teaches us to face challenges without abandoning our faith in G-d.

Another important lesson for us is to remember the miracle of the birth and establishment of Modern Israel. We should never forget the high that we all experienced in seeing the beginning of Israel's redemption and return to its land after 2000 years, and the way it overcame so many challenges and several wars.

Some of our people are forgetting those 'highs and dreams'. Political considerations are causing them to forget many facts that led to Israel's creation, and its struggle to find a lasting peace. There is a lot of revisionist history going on, and Israel's very right of existence without the fear of attacks by Israel's neighbors is questioned. How quick we have forgotten.

Let's strengthen our faith and our unity with Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,