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  • Writer's pictureAbraham Skorka

Beshalach - The path to freedom

The central theme of this parashah is the account of the challenges and labors that the Benei Israel faced once they left the land of their slavery, Egypt. It recounts the hardships they faced and the complaints they constantly presented to Moses. The passage describes two images that transmit a message for all time.

When the Benei Israel camped before the Sea of Reeds, Pharaoh and his army came swiftly to exterminate them. God arranged a column of smoke to separate one from the other. The people raised their protests to Moses, who conveyed them to God. The answer that Moses received from God was (14:15): Why do you cry to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go on their way! All the exegetes agree in understanding that God’s question must be understood as: why do you bring the cry of the people to Me? Moses, the man imbued with faith knew that it was time to act, but how should he mobilize the people? God's response was simple and direct: move forward! There is no a returning to slavery. As the people moved forward, God parted the waters of the sea.

The parashah ends with a short story (17: 8-16) in which Amalek's aggression against Israel in the wilderness is described. This time there are no reports of complaints from the children of Israel. They had taken to heart their earlier lesson that when confronted by aggressors who endangered their existence and dignity they had to act. The people fought seeing the raised hands of Moses, which according to the sages (Rosh Hashanah 29, a) reminded them of the Heavenly Father. Thus emerged the historical consciousness that would later inspire the people in such difficult circumstances as the Warsaw ghetto uprising and on so many other occasions in their history.

Shabbat Shalom!


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