Weekly Portion: Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)
The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?” The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women — each separately — sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.
They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, “If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you.” (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt — the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)
Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna(a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah God tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to “obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.”
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excerpted from Twerski on Chumash by
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
“The entire assembly of the Children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness … “You have taken us out to this Wilderness to kill this entire congregation by famine.” God said to Moses, “Behold! — I shall rain down for you food from heaven; let the people go out and pick each day’s portion on its day.” (Ex. 16:2-4).
Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov taught that the manna was a necessary precursor for accepting the Torah. The Torah forbids stealing and coveting others’ possessions. It forbids lying, cheating, taking usury and all methods of unlawful enrichment. These laws are in opposition to the innate acquisitive drives within people. How can people abide by laws that defy innate drives?
The manna served as a lesson that a person would get only that which he actually needed. If he had less, God would increase his portion to meet his needs. If he took more than his needs, his greed would result in the excess portion rotting. Once the Israelites developed the trust that God would provide for their needs and that accumulating excess was futile, they could accept laws that opposed their acquisitive drives.