Parshat Beshalach 5779: Is Collective Lack of Courage, Morality, Spirit and Emunah Holding Back the Redemption?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Beshalach is being sponsored by R’ Moshe and Marla Braun (Moshe Braun – Fine Judaic Art) and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Marla’s birthday on 14th Sh’vat. To the Braun family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beshalach 5779: Is Collective Lack of Courage, Morality, Spirit and Emunah Holding Back the Redemption?

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin goes through the events leading to the crossing of the Reed Sea in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemos, page 105):

…In order to capture the rising tide of urgency as the B’nei Yisrael approach and reach the banks of the Reed Sea, we… explore the rapid series of events unfolding… in the Torah.

…Torah describes the swiftly moving events that bring both the B’nei Yisrael and their Mitzri (Egyptian) persecutors to the banks of the Reed Sea. There, … Hashem opens the sea for fleeing [former] slaves, only to close the waters upon the pursuing Mitzriyim. (“Unlocking the Torah Text” summarizes Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posukim 1-31)

So powerful are these events, so immanent [ remaining within; indwelling; inherent] is Hashem’s presence during the culminating moments of the Exodus [Yetziyot Mitzrayim], that, centuries later, the rabbis will declare: “That which the maidservants saw at the [Reed] Sea was not seen by [the Prophet] Yechezkel and all the other prophets [Nevi’im].” (Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, “Unlocking the Torah Text” citing Mechilta on Shemot, Perek 15, posuk 2; The Song by the Sea sung by Moshe and B’nei Yisrael to Hashem)

Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) renders this translation of posukim and Rashi from Sefer Shemot regarding B’nei Yisrael’s liberation from Egypt:

“Hashem went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them on the way and by night in a pillar of fire to provide them with light, so that they could travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night departed from before the people.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 13, posukim 21-22)

“And I bore them on eagles’ wings, and I brought them to Me.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 19, posuk 5)

“It was 120 mil [Shem Mishmuel footnote defining “mil”: An early measure of distance, approximately a mile] from Ramses to Sukkot [the first stage of their journey after their Exodus (liberation from Egypt)], and they came there within an hour, as the verse says, ‘And I bore them on eagles’ wings.'” (Rashi on Sefer Shemot, Perek 19, posuk 5)

When the Jews panicked by the Reed Sea with the Mitzriyim bearing down toward them, Moshe spoke to them (as rendered in the Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi’s commentary on Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posukim 13-14):

“… Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform for you today; for that which you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again! Hashem will do battle for you, and you shall remain silent.”

And Hashem spoke to Moshe (ibid, Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posukim 15-18, pages 155-156):

“Why do you cry out to me? Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and let them journey. And you, — lift up your staff and stretch out your arm and split it; and the B’nei Yisrael shall come into the midst of the sea on dry land. And I — behold! I shall strengthen the heart of Egypt and they will come after them. and I will be glorified through Pharaoh and through his entire army…. Egypt will know that I am Hashem, when I am glorified through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

Our Parshat goes on to elaborate (as rendered in the Sapirstein Edition Chumash with Rashi’s commentary on Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posukim 19-20, pages 156-157):

“The angel of Hashem who had been going in front of the camp of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud travelled from in front of them and went behind them. It came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel and there were the cloud and the darkness — and it lit up the night — and one did not approach the other all of the night.”

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his Sefer L’lmod Ulamed on our parshat Beshalach (pages 75-76) summarizes events leading to the miraculous crossing of the Reed Sea:

The B’nei Yisrael had reached Etham on the edge of the wilderness when they were commanded to turn back and camp by the Reed Sea. There, Pharaoh would pursue them, thinking they were trapped in the wilderness.

As soon as the B’nei Yisrael had left, Pharaoh regretted letting them go. He assembled his whole army, which consisted of many soldiers and chariots, and pursued them. The Egyptians were soon on the heels of the B’nei Yisrael who panicked and complained bitterly to Moshe. “It would have been much better for us to serve in Egypt than to die in the wilderness,” they cried. However, Moshe assured them that Hashem would once again fight for them. The guiding pillar of cloud moved to their rear, creating a veil of darkness that hindered the Egyptian advance. Moshe, at Hashem’s bidding, stretched out his hand over the Reed Sea and a strong east wind blew and divided the water. This enabled the B’nei Yisrael to cross the sea on dry land. The Egyptians followed them into the seabed but were thrown into confusion by Hashem. Their chariot wheels became stuck in the wet sand. Then Moshe stretched his hand over the sea again, and the waters began to flow over the Egyptian army drowning the Egyptians and their animals.

R’ Hirsch comments in the New Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) on the Jewish mission: the ideal vs the reality of their level upon leaving Egypt (Sefer Shemot, Perek 13, posukim 7-8, pages 220-222):

…The ideal mission for Hashem’s people was… through the laws of the Pesach offering, the festival of Matzot, the consecration of the firstborn and the mitzvot of tefillin…. The people… are in the midst of being redeemed and at the beginning of their path to the fulfillment of their destiny.

…[But] the people had not yet reached that ideal level to which they were called…. We see that they possessed not the slightest trace of that power and courage with which they could have attained — and then retained — freedom for themselves by themselves. Not only the attainment of freedom, but also its enduring retainment was through the work of Hashem alone. If it had been up to them, Scripture says, then seeing war on the road to independence and freedom, they would have returned to the slavery of Egypt — this despite the fact that they went out of Egypt “fully armed”!

The sword was not lacking at their sides, but courage and the fighting spirit were lacking in their hearts. Most importantly, they still lacked trust in Hashem, the quality that gives a person determination and courage, power and enthusiasm, no matter what the task and under any circumstances, since he knows that all is in His hands.

The object of the establishment of the Jewish nation was that, among all of the nations of the world who do not know that their national lives develop under the guidance of Hashem, there should enter one nation that is fully aware of Hashem.

However, B’nei Yisrael were not yet ready for such a way of life. Only extraordinary experiences would educate them to the awareness that Hashem’s providence not only saves His adherents from destruction, but also sustains them, day by day, in all conditions and situations. This was the purpose of Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness; this was the meaning of the detour [through the wilderness because of their faintheartedness] that Hashem now made them take.

Could it be that B’nei Yisrael in our days collectively suffers at least the same lack of mental, moral and spiritual power and courage, the same lacking of fighting spirit in their hearts, i.e. emunah (faith) in Hashem as did our ancestors who Hashem’s Strong Hand Liberated from Egypt?

This may seem a negative thread to discuss on Shabbos Shirah where we commemorate and celebrate the miraculous Splitting of the Reed Sea, and just after a joyful Chanukah, but can it be that the collective failure of today’s B’nei Yisrael to reach the ideal level of our Divine calling reflects a failure on an even lower level than that of our ancestors, or even our contemporary Brethren who, with Hashem’s Help in modern-days, fought for independence and statehood and the subsequent major wars (The Sinai Campaign, The Six Day War, The Yom Kippur War, the rescue of 100 plus Entebbe hostages, etc.)?

Could it be that this failure to achieve the ideal level of their Divine calling reflects itself both within Israel’s governance and among the collective governed, represented by denial and derision, in some quarters, of our roots,Torah laws and spirituality as being immoral, where trans-genderism is the new norm in Israel (as it is in the US), where Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (living in ALL of Torah-defined Eretz Yisrael) is viewed as violating their distorted view of “Jewish” or oxymoronic Western “morality”? Could this failure where Israel’s governance seemingly equivocates toward the strains of Islamic terror and fights indecisive wars for fear of world pressure (i.e. “disproportional responses”), rather than fighting to win unequivocally? Could it be that such governance condones a twisted sense of morality which dictates to emergency caregivers who should be treated first? All of this and and much, much more? Could today’s collective failure to achieve the ideal level of our Divine calling be the factor holding back Moshiach and the Ultimate Redemption?

It seems to this author that these are still important questions to ponder, respond to and act on, even as we celebrate Shabbos Shirah.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.