For the week ending 31 January 2015 / 11 Shevat 5775

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.


Turning Saturday into Shabbat

“And it was on the seventh day…” (16:27)

The English word for Shabbat is Saturday — so named because the planet whose astrological influence is felt most strongly on that day is Saturn.

But Saturn is really the opposite of Shabbat. Saturn is traditionally a bitter planet full of negativity. A secular astrologer might tell you that the reason Jews don’t do any creative labor on Shabbat is because it’s not worth it. Anyway it’s all going to end up in the trash, undermined by the “malignant eye” of Saturn.

But really the opposite is true. Our joy in keeping Shabbat demonstrates that we reject the power and influence of sad and bitter Saturn, and we place our trust in G-d alone.

That’s the meaning of the saying, “The Jews have no Mazal (Zodiac sign).” (Shabbat 156a)

When we place our faith and trust in G-d, we rise above the vagaries of the stars.

We turn Saturday into Shabbat.

  • Source: Based on Rabbi Yaakov Orenstein, author of Yeshuot Yaakov, as seen in K’motzei Shallal Rav

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