Parashat Beshalach

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Parasha for the Week: Beshalach: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16
Haftarah for the Week: Judges 4:4 – 5:31
Besorat Yeshua: Mark 14:45 - 59


Pharaoh finally sends Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. Pillars of cloud and fire, 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, 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.

"Glorifying God"
The Torah States, “This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2).  What is the practical application of this verse? The Talmud (Shabbat 133b) writes in reference to this verse, “When you do G-d’s commandments, glorify the mitzvah. Have a beautiful sukah, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofar, beautiful tzitzit, and a beautiful Torah scroll.”  We find the same concept in reference to charity.  Rambam writes, “When you give food to a hungry person, give him your best and sweetest food.  When you give a needy person clothes, give him your best clothes” (Hilchot Isurai Mizbaiach 7:11).

"The Manna"
The Torah affirms, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the L-rd’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the L-rd said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions..’” (Exodus 16:2-4.) Each day of the week, except Shabbat, the manna would come down and the people would collect it each morning.  On Friday they received a double portion of manna, for Friday and for Shabbat.
The “bread from heaven” was called “manna” because when they first found this bread it was unfamiliar to them.  They asked, Mann Hu (What is it?)  In response Moshe told them, “This is the bread which the L-rd has given you to eat... Gather of it one Omer [a certain measurement] per person according to the number of your people in one’s tent shall you take.”
Rabbi Zalmen Marozov says that “Many of the customs we observe each Shabbat remind us of the miracle of the manna. 1. We recite the blessing over two Challot (Shabbat breads) for the Shabbat meals. This symbolizes the double portion of manna which G-d sent each Friday in honor of Shabbat. 2. We cover the Challot  in order to recall the manna which was covered with a layer of dew.  3. It is customary to prepare a stew (Ashkenazic call it Cholent, Sephardi call it Dafina) which is placed on the stove before Shabbat in order to stay hot and delicious for the Shabbat afternoon meal. To remember the manna which, in honor of Shabbat, remained fresh and delicious from Friday through the day of Shabbat.

"G-d's Redemption"
Rabbi Zev Leff says that according to the Jewish tradition three days after leaving Egypt, G-d told the newly freed Jews to return toward Egypt. Return toward Egypt, give up your newly acquired freedom, cease running toward safety and put yourselves in the clutches of your oppressors. Why? Because G-d wills it. That was the “sacrifice” after three days in the desert - not animal sacrifices, but the giving up of the thing most dear to them, their new freedom. That was the test of their worthiness for redemption.
Rabbi Leff adds, “We stand today on the brink of redemption and are being tested to see if we merit G-d’s redemption. We can safely leave bringing Mashiach to G-d, but we must merit his coming. Only by intensifying our commitment to Torah and the Bible, by dedicating ourselves to serving G-d in all areas of life, by removing the chametz (leaven/sin) from our hearts, will we successfully discharge our three days in the desert.

Haftarah: Judges 4:4 – 5:31
Haftarah: The text of the Haftara is about Deborah one of the prophetess of the Bible: "At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel." (Judges. 4:4).
Parasha: In the parasha we have the description of another prophetess, Miriam. It is said: And Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he has tri¬umphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." (Exodus 15:21). God uses men and women to reveal his will.
Haftarah: Exactly as Miriam was a great support for Moses, Deborah supported Barak, the chef of the army of Israel: "Deborah said to Barak, "Up! For this is the day on which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. The LORD is indeed going out before you." So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand warriors following him. And the LORD threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic before Barak; Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot." (Judges. 4:14-15).
Parasha: When God gave His victory over the Egyptians Miriam sang: "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea (Ex. 15:1).
Haftarah: When God gave His victory over Sisera Deborah sang: "When the people offer themselves willingly— bless the LORD! (Judges 5:1-2) "Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak, lead away your captives. (Judg. 5:12) "In ancient times the Lord had connected with His work men of varied talents. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses with his meekness and wisdom, and Joshua with his varied capabilities were all enlisted in God's service. The music of Miriam, the courage and piety of Deborah, the filial affection of Ruth, the obedience and faithfulness of Samuel—all were needed." (EGW)

We, very often,  have a wrong worldview of the Bible and the G-d of Israel, which, by the way, is the same G-d, Jews and Christians worship. This wrong worldview is that G-d’s love, promises, and prophecies are conditional. It is said, or believed: “To deserve His blessings we must be obedient” this is especially true when we debate about the Land of Israel and the rights of the people of Israel to stay in that land. G-d has permitted Israel’s exile, because Israel has not been faithful to G-d, and thus the modern return of Israel to their home land cannot be the fulfillment of any prophecy, because Israel is still disobedient, especially that Israel still don't accept Yeshua as their Messiah. I would like to challenge this worldview and wrong understanding of the Bible in this essay.
It is appropriate to think about this as we reflect on the Exodus. A midrashic discussion among the angels tells us that this discussion is not new, and certainly not only a Christian discussion, it is said: The Torah affirms, “The children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:29) and the Midrash says, “The heavenly angels marveled and said: ‘How can people who are idol worshipers walk on dry land in the midst of the sea?’” (Exodus Rabba 26:4). In other words, the Israelites were not clearly deserving of such a great miracle as the splitting of the sea, and walking on dry land; the moral difference between them and the Egyptians was not sufficiently marked to justify saving ones while drowning the others. Performing miracles for the undeserving is, according to our traditional view, discriminatory and presents even G-d with moral difficulties.
The first reflection on this topic and objection to G-d’s miracles in favor of His people, is to ask: who in this world deserves anything from G-d? Paul answers this question, reminding that “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for G-d. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9–12), and this truth that no one deserves anything, because all are sinners, is not a new truth revealed by the Brit Hachadasha, but a truth already taught in the Hebrew Bible. The texts of Paul are direct quotations of Psalms 14 and 53, in this last Psalm it is said: “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 53:3). Thus no one deserves anything in this world, not you and not me.
However, if it is clear that Israel do not deserve anything, the Bible  says that the great difference between Israel and the Egyptians is their faith. G-d’s people have no more merits than any other people, all of them are sinners and need Mashiach to be saved, but Israel demonstrated their faith by the passover blood on the doors of their houses. Rabbi Shaul confirms this truth for each one of us, “But because of his great love for us, G-d, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Mashiach even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  . . . For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of G-d   not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:4-9). “G-d is love”, it is an affirmation of the Bible and the exodus is a great illustration of this love of G-d for us and for everyone on the earth. He is full of mercy. His forgiveness is always available to us. AvailableÑbut not automaticÑbecause forgiveness and salvation are reserved to everyone who has faith in G-d, in his love and in his Mashiach. The blood of the lamb put on the doors by the Israelites was a symbolic act of their faith in the blood of the Messiah, “For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith.” Nobody can boast and says that he is righteous enough by himself to be saved. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
Thus, I affirm that the promises G-d has made to his people are not conditional, and not proportional to their faithfulness to the law of G-d, since no one is justified by the work of the law. We are all depending on our faith and our own choice. I always have to make choice in my life, and my choice can be led by my knowledge of G-d’s will, or by my selfish desires, but G-d’s promises are always here and always available for me.
The teaching of Rabbi Shaul on the subject of righteousness is: “But now the righteousness of G-d has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to itÑ the righteousness of G-d through faith in Yeshua HaMashiach for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Mashiach Yeshua” (Romans 3:21–24). Let’s praise the L-rd for His grace towards us and gift of salvation.

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