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B'Shallach (After he let go0 Ex 13-17

Torah Portion:  B’Shallach (After he had let go) Exodus 13:17-17:16

HafTorah: Judges 4:4-5:31

Tonight we read of the exit from Egypt by Israel, crossing of the sea and the beginning of their journey to the Promise Land.  I would like us to explore this Torah portion as it might relate to our own spiritual journey. Here in these verses we can see places where Israel grew spiritually and places where they failed – much as we do. In Exodus 3:12 we see the goal of their exit from Egypt. The goal was that they would serve HaShem on the mountain. This journey would be a process. (Exodus 13:17) The people needed time to grow and get Egypt out of them.

We see G-d bring Israel out by His mighty hand. He showed His power to save. When the people experienced this they sang and praised G-d. In verse 14:31 we read where they feared HaShem and believed Him and Moses. They realized the Egyptians were a thing of the past.

Now flash forward three days. In Exodus 15:22-23 it says, “they find no water.” It is interesting that it does not say they were thirsty or even looking for water. It just says they could not drink the water. There was no yelling or screaming. Moses prayed to G-d and G-d instructed him to throw a tree into the water and it became sweet. (Exodus 15:25) No big deal. No fanfare. Just throw a stick in and it will become sweet. Now the interesting part, the last of the verse, “There G-d teaches them rituals and laws.” Makes us think that they had grown somewhat spiritually and G-d was ready to teach them more. They, like us, were expected to move on in their spiritual understanding of the Father. The journey of life gives us those opportunities to grow and to move on. The point of all our experiences is to grow closer to Him and so it was with the children of Israel.

Next in Exodus chapter 16 we read where they slip back a bit and complain over lack of food. They had been journeying at least 45 days and they remembered the food of Egypt. G-d rains down manna and meat to meet their need for food. Further on in chapter 16:23 we read where Moses instructed the people to prepare double what they normally prepare, for the following day was Shabbat.  Again He is teaching a spiritual lesson. The manna was more than just physical food, it was to show them the Sabbath. They thought they needed food but the Father knew what they really needed. They needed a day of rest – the Sabbath. G-d used the things of life to teach them important spiritual lessons. Life is our means to grow and learn of the Father and His plan for us.

However, sometimes the process is two steps forward and one step back. In Exodus 17:7 we read where they are questioning whether G-d is with them or not. Thirst brings them to question G-d. Have we ever found ourselves in a place like this? Have we ever thought, “If this is faith who needs it? Where is G-d? Is He with me or not.”

G-d’s response was to bring Amalak to attack them. Things didn’t get better. Instead things got worse. Can they hold on, can we? Amalak didn’t have to be brought into the picture. But Amalak was needed to bring the people back to G-d. Israel prevailed but only through trusting in G-d. G-d has not left us. He does expect us to grow and internalize the lessons He teaches us. In many ways this is the point of this Torah portion.

One way, maybe the most important way, is to stay connected to Him, to live each day through Him. How do we do this? We do this through prayer. What would be your definition of prayer? Is it to make a request, to ask earnestly for something or to plead with G-d for something? It can be all of these things but it is more.  Maybe the best way to define prayer is to look at the Hebrew root of the word t’filah. T’filah gives us a whole different meaning. To help let us look back at B’resheet 30:8 where the second son of Bilhah is named Naphtali. This name shares the same root as t’filah. Here we see the boy’s name as meaning wrestle or maybe better as attach or fasten oneself to something, to connect.

So prayer at its root means to connect with G-d. It is that sacred moment when we focus on and connect with the Lover of our soul. Prayer at its foundation is an expression of love between a Father and his child. Prayer is a time to just love and be loved. It may include requests and supplications but it is really about the love between a Father and child. Only thus can we grow and weather the storms of life.