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Home » Beshalach

Beshalach: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on January 13, 2008 – 4:42 amNo Comment | 2,677 views

Sunday: Oy Vey

“And it was when Pharaoh sent the nation.” The Hebrew word vayehi, “and it was” is, can be divided into two words. The last two letters spell G-d’s name and the first two letters spell the word Vey. In other words, G-d exclaimed, Oy Vey. Why would G-d express dismay at the liberation of the Jewish people?

During their stay in Egypt many Jews adopted idolatrous practices. One of the purposes of the plagues was to instill faith in G-d. Each plague cleansed the Jewish heart from another measure of idolatry. Yet several times during their forty-year journey our ancestors questioned G-d, indicating that they were not completely free of the idolatrous Egyptian influence.

Had Pharaoh held out just a little longer and absorbed just a few more plagues, our ancestors would have achieved total faith and would never have faltered. It is little wonder then that G-d groaned in dismay when Pharaoh relented prematurely and freed our ancestors. Beis Halevi

Monday: Pharaoh’s War

Two wars are discussed in this Torah portion, one against Pharaoh, the other against Amalek. Whereas Jewish soldiers were dispatched to fight Amalek, Pharaoh was fought by the Almighty Himself. Moses declared, “G-d shall wage your war – you stand silent.”

Pharaoh did not position himself between Jews and Mount Sinai, but between Jews and Egypt. In effect, his message was if you want the wealth of Egypt, you need to serve me. The proper response was to journey toward Sinai and receive the Torah. Once we received the Torah, G-d would provide all the material wealth we required. This is the inner meaning of “G-d shall wage your war.”

Amalek, on the other hand, stood between Jews and Mount Sinai. We cannot remain sanguine about someone who stands between us and Torah. We must do whatever we can to remove the obstacle. To oppose Amalek it is appropriate that Jewish soldiers be hurled into battle. Likutei Sichos

Tuesday: Uplifting Love

An angel traveled before our ancestors to scout the way, but when Egypt attacked, “the G-dly angel that traveled ahead of the Jewish camp, moved behind them” to protect them.

Angels are holier than human beings. Yet human beings are endowed with souls that are loftier even than angels. Encased within the body, the soul is subdued – unable to express its true spirit and passion. On occasion, a wave of inspiration washes over the soul, stirs it out of lethargy to express the full measure of its holiness.

The splitting of the Reed Sea was one such occasion. The Divine revelation of that moment stimulated a massive wave of inspiration that engulfed the entire Jewish camp. The angel that ordinarily traveled ahead of the people was forced to stand back and allow them to pass ahead of him. Kedushas Levi

Wednesday: Walls of Wrath

Our ancestors journeyed into the sea “and the waters were like a wall to their right and to their left.” This sentence appears twice in the Torah, albeit with a slight change in the spelling of the word choma, wall. When the second letter of the word choma is omitted it can be read as cheima, wrath. Our sages noted that the second time the above verse appears in the Torah, the second letter of the word choma is in fact omitted, indicating Divine displeasure with the Jews as they exited the sea.

The Jews marched into the sea with complete faith in G-d. When they saw the Egyptian cavalry charging behind them into the sea they bemoaned their fate and began to doubt G-d, thus arousing Divine ire. If not for G-d’s love for the Jews, He would have drowned them right there, alongside the Egyptians. We now understand the dual meaning of the word choma. The very waters that had served as protective walls when they entered the sea threatened to consume them as they left it. Kli Yakar

Thursday: Proper Repentance

Our ancestors demonstrated their lack of faith on two separate occasions regarding the Manna. The first time was when they reserved a portion of the first day’s Manna for the following day in contravention of explicit Divine instructions. The second time was when they left the camp on Shabbat to search for Manna despite an explicit Divine prohibition. By the next Shabbat they had repented as the Torah testifies, “the nation rested on the seventh day.” Yet there is no mention of the fact that they also repented for their first sin and never again reserved Manna for the following morning.

Reserving Manna for the next day is a passive violation of a positive commandment whereas leaving the camp on Shabbat to search for Manna was an active transgression of a prohibition. The Talmud teaches that active transgressions are only forgiven when similar opportunities present themselves and the former sinner avoids repeating the sin. Conversely, transgression of a positive commandment is forgiven the moment that transgressor repents.

Accordingly, the Torah tells us that they rested the following Shabbat because their rest informed their forgiveness. There was no need to mention that the positive commandment was not violated again because their repentance was immediately accepted. Meshech Chochmo

Friday: Golden  Manna

Shortly after the Reed Sea was split our ancestors complained of hunger and were provided with  Manna from heaven. The juxtaposition of these events seems instructive. What can we learn from it?

At the shore of the Read Sea our ancestors were preoccupied with collecting jewelry and medallions, worn by Egyptian soldiers that had washed ashore. This appetite for the jewelry stimulated the appetite for food that followed it, as our sages taught, one who has one hundred coins desires two hundred. To this G-d responded with Manna. By providing bread from heaven G-d reminded the people that true wealth couldn’t be found in earthly possessions, but in a heavenly connection with G-d. Indeed, our ancestors took their cue and went on to receive the Torah. Tiferes Sholomo

Shabbat: Apathy

Biblical tales are meant to serve as ethical instruction to all generations. What lesson can we learn from the war our ancestors waged against Amalek? The Midrash offers the following parable. There was a tub filled with scalding water that everyone was afraid to enter. One rash fellow jumped in and was scalded, but his foolhardy behavior cooled the others’ fear and they too could now enter. When our ancestors left Egypt they were accompanied by G-d. No nation would touch them. Along came Amalek and attacked. He was defeated, but the nations’ fear was now diluted.

We too are often inspired by the passionate flame of our souls, but along comes our inner Amalek and injects a measure of apathy and doubt. Apathy is toxic to the soul and we must oppose it with firm resolve. Our deepest faith and strongest commitments must be brought to bear in our war against Amalek. When we refuse to be deterred we can expect to prevail. Likutei Sichos

Edited by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Director of Chabad at La Costa.