For the week ending 26 January 2013 / 14 Shevat 5773

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.


An Acquired Taste

“Moshe caused Yisrael to journey from the sea of Reeds...” (15:22)

They say that oysters are an acquired taste. They must be. The thought of swallowing (you don’t eat oysters, you swallow them) what looks like a two inch disk of rubber with the odoriferous bouquet of an ancient sea-wreck must, I’m sure, take some acquiring.

There are some tastes, however, that require absolutely no acquiring whatsoever.

In the above verse, Rashi comments that Moshe caused the Jewish People to journey against their will. Let’s picture the scene. The Egyptian army is lying scattered across the seashore. The Egyptians had crowned their horses with ornaments of gold and silver and precious stones. The Jewish People were busily gathering these jewels from the sea. Even before Moshe moved them on, the treasure that they amassed from the seashore was greater than the treasure collected when they left Egypt. The seashore probably looked like someone had raided all the storefronts on Fifth Avenue, including Tiffany and Cartier, and dumped it all on the beach. It’s not surprising Moshe had to drag them away from such a bonanza.

What is strange is that in last week’s Torah portion (11:2) G‑d asked Moshe to tell the Jewish People to ask the Egyptians to give them their valuables. For unless they did so Avraham would have a grievance against G-d. G‑d had promised Avraham to bring out his progeny from the slavery of Egyptwith great wealth. If G-d asked Moshe to make sure the Jewish People took from the Egyptians, the implication is that without this chivvying, the Jewish People would not have asked the Egyptians for anything at all.

So how come a few days later the reluctant and retiring Jewish People are all over the beach scrabbling for jewelry? What happened to their diffidence?

It’s amazing how some tastes take absolutely no acquiring whatsoever!

  • Source: Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

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