Parsha

For the week ending 27 January 2018 / 11 Shevat 5778

Parshat Beshalach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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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 them, 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 into battle while Moshe prays for their welfare.

Insights

Un-boxing

“It was told to the king of Egypt that people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants became transformed regarding the people, and they said: ‘What is this that we have done that we have sent away the Jewish People from serving us?’” (14:5)

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes in his classic “Essay on Kindness” that the two “root motivations” of the human personality are the desire to give and the desire to take. The “desire to give” is the root of all good in the world, and it is the higher level of the personality that connects us to the Ultimate Giver. When we are motivated by the desire to give we fulfill G-d’s command to create a being who is created in His Image: “Be holy because I, the L-rd your G-d, am Holy.” (Vayikra 19:2)

The “power to take” is the root of evil in the world: wars, infidelity, and egotism. Interestingly, the desire to take does not focus on a specific object, but rather it is the desire to make mine what is not mine, to move that which is beyond the perimeter of possession to within it. And thus this desire can never be satiated, for as soon as the object of desire has become the object of possession it loses its intoxicating aroma. It takes its place in the junk room of past trophies. And thus, on to the next! And then the next and the next and the next...

The desire to take is the green-eyed monster that mocks the food it preys upon.

One of the quirky new phenomena of the BNI (Brave New Internet) is the YouTube, “Unboxing Video.” For the uninitiated, an unboxing video is a video, which is usually self-filmed, of someone unwrapping or unboxing a new acquisition. We sit on the edge of our seat while Jimmy unwraps his new “Chibson,” his fake Chinese Gibson electric guitar, peeling off layer by layer of bubble wrap and brown paper; while Patrick unboxes his new iPhone X, every sliver of cellophane crackling with delight and expectation; while Phillipe extracts his Rolex from the innards of a red plastic toy fire-engine.

Why are unboxing videos so popular? Why would anyone want to watch someone unwrapping a new acquisition from which they will never have the merest frisson of pleasure?

And yet these videos are hugely popular. One of them called “Play Doh Ice cream cupcakes playset playdough by Unboxingsurpriseegg” had notched up over 838.9 million views as of April 2017.

Maybe unboxing videos represent what Rav Dessler says. The pleasure of watching someone else acquiring is vicarious. It is the enjoyment in sharing that moment when the object of desire becomes the object of possession, and its evanescence is delectable, even for a voyeur.

It was told to the king of Egypt that people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants became transformed regarding the people, and they said, “What is this that we have done that we have sent away the Jewish People from serving us?”

Rashi says that when it was reported to Pharaoh that the Jews had no intention of returning to Egypt after three days, he and his courtiers “became transformed” and they regretted having freed the Jews.

Had Pharaoh forgotten the terrible plagues that were visited upon him and his nation?

F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out), the desire to take, allows us to rationalize anything.

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