For the week ending 3 February 2007 / 15 Shevat 5767

Parshat Beshalach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Pharaoh finally sends Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. With pillars of cloud and fire, G-d 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 by G-d, 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.


Another Day, Another Miracle

“...and G-d moved the sea with a strong east wind…” (14:21)

As long as anyone can remember, the sun has risen in the east and set in the west. Gravity tirelessly stops us from flying off the face of the globe, and waterfalls, with singular determination, flow only downward. Water wets. Fire burns.

The list of faithfully unchanging phenomena in this world is nearly endless.

But it was not always so.

In the six days of primordial creation, nothing was fixed. Every day brought a revelation and a revolution to the previous day’s existence. Another day, another miracle. On the first day, there was no Heaven — the whole of creation was changed when Heaven was miraculously created on the second day; on the second day there was no earth, no vegetation; on the third day there was no sun, no stars; on the fourth, there were no living creatures; on the fifth, no man, and on the sixth, no Shabbat.

A miracle is no less than a new creation. Thus, for a miracle to happen after the first six days, the world has to return to that primordial era, and through the revelation of those ancient forces, the miraculous can take place. Any time that nature is changed, it is as though we are transported once again to that époque.

“...and G-d moved the sea with a strong east wind…”

In this verse, the Torah hints of this reality. East wind can also be translated as a spirit from ancient days. When the sea split in front of the Jewish People, they were witnessing a new chapter in a story as old as the world itself.

And don’t think that miracles are a thing of the past. We’re surrounded by miraculous events every day – we just don’t see them because they’re hidden. “How can a miracle be hidden?” you will ask. If no one recognizes it, where is the miracle?

I’ll give you an example.

Take Joe Cohen. If you’d looked at Joe’s mazal (birth chart), you would have seen that he was due to pass from this world as the result of an unspectacular lung infection at the age of sixty. In his forties, however, Joe started to give very large amounts of tzedaka charity, with the result that G-d changed his mazal and Joe lived till a very ripe age. In other words, Joe lived a miraculous existence for nearly thirty years. No one saw the miracle, but a miracle nonetheless it was.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary; there are many who live to even riper ages than Joe. Nevertheless, Joe’s extended lifespan was no more than a re-writing of world history, a return to the spirit of ancient days.

Another day, another miracle.

  • Sources: Kedushat Levi, The Ramban

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