Parshat ha Shavuah Verses –Beshalach

Wow! What a parshah! It is very true that no matter how many times you read Torah on Shabbat, you will always be astonished by something in it. It seems that I have read this one – Beshalach  – for the first time, as I don’t think I ever realized how many fundamental events are in it!

כא  וַיהוָה הֹלֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם יוֹמָם בְּעַמּוּד עָנָן, לַנְחֹתָם הַדֶּרֶךְ, וְלַיְלָה בְּעַמּוּד אֵשׁ, לְהָאִיר לָהֶם–לָלֶכֶת, יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה.

21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; that they might go by day and by night:

כב  לֹא-יָמִישׁ עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן, יוֹמָם, וְעַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ, לָיְלָה–לִפְנֵי, הָעָם.

22 the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, departed not from before the people.

Dont’ touch my people!

I am their guardian. In clouds, in fire

I am with them. Always!


יד  יְהוָה, יִלָּחֵם לָכֶם; וְאַתֶּם, תַּחֲרִשׁוּן.

14 The LORD will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.’

Why are you trembling?

Why are you still lacking faith?

Gd Himself is fighting for you. Just hold your breath.



כא  וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדוֹ, עַל-הַיָּם, וַיּוֹלֶךְ יְהוָה אֶת-הַיָּם בְּרוּחַ קָדִים עַזָּה כָּל-הַלַּיְלָה, וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת-הַיָּם לֶחָרָבָה; וַיִּבָּקְעוּ, הַמָּיִם.

21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

כב  וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם, בַּיַּבָּשָׁה; וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה, מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם.

22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

This is one place in the Torah, where a clear distinction is made between a prayer – even of a great person – and an action. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Kohelet 3:1) So, there is time for prayer and time for action:

According to Mekhilta, Beshalach 80:5

When the people of Israel stood facing the Sea of Reeds, each one hesitated mot wanting to be the first to jump into the sea.

Nachshon, the son of Aminadav saw what was happening—and jumped into the sea.nachshon.jpg

At that moment Moses was standing and praying. G‑d said to him, “My beloved one is drowning in the stormy seas, and you are standing and praying?”

Moses replied, “Master of the world, what am I to do?”

Said G‑d, “You lift your staff” (Exodus 14:16)

And so it was. Following Nachshon’s lead, the Israelites entered the sea and were saved.

כ  וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן, אֶת-הַתֹּף–בְּיָדָהּ; וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל-הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ, בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת.

20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

כא  וַתַּעַן לָהֶם, מִרְיָם:  שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה, סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם.

21 And Miriam sang unto them: Sing ye to the LORD, for He is highly exalted: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.

After the children of Israel safely land on the other side of the sea, Moses starts singing praise to Gd for saving them, and Miriam (note מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן, not sister of Aaron and Mosemiriam-dancinglgs, but just Aaron. Some say that’s because she has been a prophet way before Moses’ birth) starts singing and dancing at which point lots of women join her.

I am not even going to discuss contemporary tzniut laws according to which this would be an abomination. She clearly takes the lead and feels in her right to sing to HaShem!

This, of course, brings me to this week’s Haftarah – another song sang by a woman in her own right – Deborah.

א  וַתָּשַׁר דְּבוֹרָה, וּבָרָק בֶּן-אֲבִינֹעַם,  {ס}  בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא,  {ר}  לֵאמֹר.  {ס} 1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying:
ב  בִּפְרֹעַ פְּרָעוֹת בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל,  {ס}  בְּהִתְנַדֵּב  {ר}  עָם, בָּרְכוּ, יְהוָה.  {ס} 2 When men let grow their hair in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly, bless ye the LORD.
ג  שִׁמְעוּ מְלָכִים, הַאֲזִינוּ  {ר}  רֹזְנִים:  {ס}  אָנֹכִי, לַיהוָה אָנֹכִי אָשִׁירָה,  {ס}  אֲזַמֵּר,  {ר}  לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.  {ס} 3 Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, unto the LORD will I sing; I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Israel.

I have presented once at Limmud FSU on Deborah showing how her governing roots could be traced in a more contemporary woman-leader, Gold Meir. However, this is a talk for another post.

This is also the parshah, where we are explicitly told to keep Shabbat. People are promised and given food so that they are not afraid of hunger on the Holy Day.

כט  רְאוּ, כִּי-יְהוָה נָתַן לָכֶם הַשַּׁבָּת–עַל-כֵּן הוּא נֹתֵן לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, לֶחֶם יוֹמָיִם; שְׁבוּ אִישׁ תַּחְתָּיו, אַל-יֵצֵא אִישׁ מִמְּקֹמוֹ–בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי.

29 See that the LORD hath given you the sabbath; therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.’

ל  וַיִּשְׁבְּתוּ הָעָם, בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי.

30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

לא  וַיִּקְרְאוּ בֵית-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, מָן; וְהוּא, כְּזֶרַע גַּד לָבָן, וְטַעְמוֹ, כְּצַפִּיחִת בִּדְבָשׁ.

31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna; and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.



Today, just like then in the desert, some people are still not sure of the validity of this promise. May we see the day when all of Jews will “rest on the seventh day”.


Shabbat Shalom!


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