Shabbat Commentary

18/19 Jan : Beshalach : Shabbat comes in 4:10 pm,  ends  5:19 pm

In Parashat Beshalach, the Israelites leave behind a ruined Egypt and start their journey to the land of their ancestors.  Even now, however, Pharaoh cannot bring himself to let them leave, and so his troops set out in hot pursuit. They catch the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds.  Moshe urges them to “Stand by and witness the deliverance which God will work for you today, for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. God will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (Ex. 14:13-14)

So were the Israelites really just passive watchers of all these events? The Sages didn’t like this idea; they saw the need for the people to take active steps to participate in their own redemption. Thus, in the Mekhilta, a midrash on Exodus, they inquire why the verse (Ex. 14:29) says that “the Israelites marched through the sea on dry ground” – it should be one or the other! “Rather, from here you learn that the sea did not split for them until they went into it up to their faces, and after that it became dry for them,” so that they first went “through the sea “and then “on dry ground.”   God created circumstances for the Israelite salvation — but the Israelites had to take the initiative as well.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman




January 17, 2019