Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 January 2014 / 10 Shevat 5774

Parshat Beshalach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

Pharaoh finally sends Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. With pillars of cloud and fire, G-d leads them toward Eretz Yisrael on a circuitous route, avoiding the Pelishtim (Philistines). Pharaoh regrets the loss of so many slaves and chases the Jews with his army. The Jews are very afraid as the Egyptians draw close, but G-d protects them. Moshe raises his staff and G-d splits the sea, enabling the Jews to cross safely. Pharaoh, his heart hardened by G-d, commands his army to pursue, whereupon the waters crash down upon the Egyptian army. Moshe and Miriam lead the men and women, respectively, in a song of thanks. After three days' travel only to find bitter waters at Marah, the people complain. Moshe miraculously produces potable water. In Marah they receive certain mitzvot . The people complain that they ate better food in Egypt. G-d sends quail for meat and provides manna, a miraculous bread that falls from the sky every day except Shabbat. On Friday a double portion descends to supply the Shabbat needs. No one is able to obtain more than his daily portion, but manna collected on Friday suffices for two days so the Jews can rest on Shabbat. Some manna is set aside as a memorial for future generations. When the Jews again complain about a lack of water, Moshe miraculously produces water from a rock. Then Amalek attacks. Joshua leads the Jews in battle while Moshe prays for their welfare.

Insights

Burning Your Bridges

“...G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for G-d said, 'Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt’.” (13-17).

Chaim's fingers hovered over his iPhone. He had already blocked ninety per cent of the contacts in his address book, put in place a hermetic filter from his Internet Service Provider, and now he was ready for the ultimate sacrifice. He walked up to a total stranger on the street and said, "Please would you key in a seven character string of letters or numbers or a mixture of both?"

The stranger looked at him a little strangely, but decided he didn't look like a mugger and entered a string of characters.

"Would you please enter it again in the box below that, and then press 'Enter'?"

"Thank you very much," smiled Chaim and briskly walked away. Within a minute Chaim and the stranger were separated by thousands of other rush-hour commuters.

That was it. There was no way he could now undo the changes he had made. He had locked his computer with an unknown, virtually unknowable code. Chaim had burned his bridges.

Why did G-d make it well-nigh impossible for the Jewish People to return to Egypt? After all, the reason He took them out in the first place was because they screamed and cried for Him to take them out, so if in the future they might decide to go back, why not let them?

Each of us is trapped in our own little “Egypt”. The Egypt of materialism. The Egypt of indulgence. The Egypt of doubt, of depression, of selfishness.

It takes a lot of hard work to get us out of those Egypts. And if we manage to make it out, there will always be a 'good ole friend' who will give a call or send us a text, and say 'Hi, why don't we hang out together tonight!" The only way to make sure that 'good ole friend' can't drag us back to Egypt is to burn our bridges so there's no way back.

G-d knew that the true desire of the Jewish People was – and still is – to be close to Him, but He led us through the sea because He wanted to burn our bridges to make it easier for us to leave Egypt once and for all.

  • Source: based on an idea heard from Rabbi Yechezkel Weinfeld

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