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Home » Beshalach

Beshalach: Miracle of Love

Submitted by on January 15, 2017 – 12:13 amNo Comment | 2,832 views

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They stood at the seashore overwhelmed by the miracle of love they had witnessed. All night long, they had crossed the sea and as the sun rose, they could not believe their eyes – the seashore was strewn with dead Egyptian bodies. Only then did the full magnitude of the miracle dawn on them. The sea had parted and they had crossed it. Their pursuers had followed and drowned in the watery trap.

The Torah tells us that “G-d saved the Jewson that day from the hand of Egypt.”[1] It is true that this was a miracle of salvation, but hadn’t the true salvation occurred a week earlier at the Exodus? Why does the Torah say that they were only saved at this point?

The Midrash records a conversation between G-d the angel Uza, the archangel of Egypt. Shortly after the Jews left Egypt, Uza lodged an official complaint. In the Torah it was foretold that the children of Abraham would be enslaved by a foreign nation for four-hundred years and yet G-d liberated the slaves after only two-hundred-and-ten years. The angel demanded the return of the Jews for the balance.

G-d refused and explained that the Torah did not specify where the Jews would be enslaved for four centuries, it merely stated that they would be in a land, not their own. From the time that Isaac was born, Abraham’s children were living in a land, not their own because Israel did not yet belong to the Jews. If you count, concluded G-d, you will see that it is precisely four-hundred years since Isaac’s birth.

This, concludes the Midrash, is the deeper meaning of the words, “G-d saved the Jewson that day.” It was on the day the sea parted that G-d delivered this resounding response.[2]

Heaven and Earth

Nothing unfolds on the earthly plane that is not previously decided on the heavenly plane. Pharaoh chased the Jews because Moses had originally asked for a three day reprieve and when Pharaoh learned that Moses showed no sign of returning after three days, he rallied his troops to give chase. As Pharaoh’s army chased the Jews, his celestial angel made protestations on his behalf. When G-d responded with a resounding no in the heavens, the Egyptian army met its defeat on earth.

This suggestion is reinforced by the singular form that the Torah employs several times when describing the Egyptian troops. The first time is when the Jews lifted their eyes and saw that Egypt was in pursuit. It doesn’t say the Egyptians were in pursuit, it says that Egypt was in pursuit. The second time is after the sea split, when the Jews“saw that Egypt lay dead on the sea shore.”[3] Again, Egypt in the singular form.

The literal reason for the singular form is that the Torah references the Egyptian army as a single unit. But the Torah speaks on multiple levels, thus in addition to the literal explanation, our sages understood this syntax in a mystical light. They saw it as a reference to the celestial angel that ministered to the needs of Egypt. The angel that our sages called Uza.[4] In the afternoon, the Jews saw this angel chasing them into the sea and the next morning, they saw it lying (proverbially) dead at the sea shore.

G-d’s resounding response to the angel Uza was a deafening defeat that spelled its doom. It would forever lose its mission as the archangel of Egypt. Since an angel lives primarily for its mission, recusing it from its mission is the equivalent of death.

It Was time

There is still a question that begs to be asked. When Uza witnessed G-d smite the Egyptians with ten plagues, he surely deduced that G-d was determined to liberate the Jews before their term. Why did he think he could change G-d’s mind (as it were) at this point? Another question. If he did believe he could exert influence with G-d, why didn’t he speak up before the exodus?

To answer this we must consider another teaching from our sages. We are taught that while in Egypt, most Jews were caught up in Egyptian paganism. Our sages taught that on the day of the exodus, our ancestors were at the brink of spiritual extinction. Had they remained in Egypt for one more moment they would have sunk into a spiritual abyss from which they could never recover.

G-d chose to liberate our ancestors well before their four-hundred year term because the Jews would not have survived spiritually had they remained in Egypt for the full term. They would have assimilated among the Egyptians and ceased to exist as a Jewish entity.

Uza must have known this when He observed G-d preparing to liberate His children. He knew that to survive as a people, the Jews would require a reprieve from Egypt. He assumed this was the reason Moses asked for a three day reprieve. To Uza’s mind, a three day break from Egypt, during which the Jews would worship G-d in the desert, would fortify the Jews sufficiently to return to Egypt and serve out their term. This is why he didn’t protest before or even during the Exodus.

It was only after the Jews were several days into their journey that Uza issued his complaint. By then, Uza reasoned, they had ample opportunity to fortify their spirits and should have returned. At this point he argued that Egypt should not be deprived of the nearly two centuries of slavery still due them.

G-d surprised Uza with some creative accounting. At this point, Uza finally understood that Egypt’s interests were going to be completely dismissed because G-d was motivated solely by His love for the Jews. It also became clear that G-d had no further interest in Egypt celestial representation and Uza, their archangel, was summarily dismissed.

Miracle of Love

That G-d loved His children was also evident from the fact that He compensated them handsomely as they departed Egypt.[5] Though this compensation was foretold to Abraham, it was contingent on the Jews spending four-hundred years in slavery. In fact, they were in severe bondage for less than a hundred years and resided in Egypt for just over two-hundred years. They were not entitled to compensation since they failed to work the full term.

Yet, G-d chose to be generous and loving. He liberated them from Egypt permanently, not temporarily. He rewarded them with great wealth though they didn’t suffer their full term. The take-home message is that G-d loves us and is always at our side. He always was, always is and always will be.[6]

[1] Exodus 14: 30.

[2] Yalkut Shimoni 247

[3] Exodus 14: 10 and 14: 30.

[4] Midrash Tanchumah: B’shalach 13 and Zohar B’shalach 52.

[5] The Israelites to borrowed gold, silver and apparel from the Egyptians and departed with donkey loads of goods.

[6] Based on commentary by Noda B’yehudah – Rabbai Yechezel Landau – on the Parsha.

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