For the week ending 11 February 2017 / 15 Shevat 5777

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 them, 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 into battle while Moshe prays for their welfare.


Higher than the Angels

“The angel of G-d who had been going in front of the Children of Israel moved and went behind them...” (14:19)

The word in Hebrew, chaya, has two seemingly opposite meanings. A chaya is a wild animal, but it is also one of the names of the most elevated of the angels, as we say in our daily prayers: “And the Ofanim and the Chayot HaKodesh…”

What possible connection could there be between a beast and a celestial being?

Man is called a “walker”. As it says in the Prophet Zecharia, “I will give you strides (mehalchim) amongst the ‘standers’ (the angels) here.” (3:7)

An angel can only stand in its place; it cannot move up or down. It has no freedom to choose. Its perception of G-d is so overwhelming that it can do nothing other than the Will of G-d. A beast is the same. It too has no freedom of choice. It can only follow its instincts, which is the Will of G-d.

Only man can choose between good and evil, and thus only man can move up or down.

When the Jewish People elevate themselves, when they exercise their freedom to choose to do the Will of G-d, G-d shines His Kindness upon them, and they can ascend to a level above even the holiest angels.

Thus, “The angel of G-d which had been going in front of the Children of Israel” — i.e. preceding them in holiness — now “moved and went behind them”, because they had elevated themselves higher even than the angels.

  • Source: based on the Kedushat Levi

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