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Beshallach ~ 5775 ~ בשלח
Pharaoh finally sends B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt. With pillars of cloud and fire, G-d leads them toward Eretz Yisrael on a circuitous route, avoiding the 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, 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.
MAFTIR Exodus 17:14-16 ~ page 280
HAFTORAH Judges 4:4-5:31 ~ page 281 Devorah’s Song
In the time of the Judges, 13th century B.C.E., Israel found themselves cruelly oppressed by Yavin and his general, Sisra. Devorah, the divinely inspired prophetess, enlists Barak to lead an army against them. With the success of the battle, Devorah sang a song of praise and thanks to G-d, similar in nature to that of Moshe and Israel in the parsha. So too, the People’s faith in G-d had similar “ups and downs” to those in the sedra. Devorah was key to restoring a high level of faith in G-d among the People and in leading the People to great victories. Ashkenazim include the story of Sisra’s temporary escape from Barak as well as his demise at the hand of Yael while he slept.
Parashah Study Questions
1. Besides the Egyptians, who else died in the plague of darkness (13:18)? Why did they die now? What is the textual source of this teaching?
2. Can a contractual commitment (the brothers oath to Yosef) be binding 210 years later upon the great-great-grandchildren?
3. Why is verse 15:1 in the future tense: “Then Moshe and Bnei Yisrael will sing”?
4. If the mitzvah of Shabbat was not given until Mt. Sinai on day 50, how did Israel understand the restrictions of manna regarding collecting it in 16:26?
5. Why is it called a Tu B’shvat “SEDER”? What are the similarities and differences between this and a Passover seder? If you miss Tu B’shvat, is there a make-up, like Pesach Sheni four weeks later?