Torah Portion: B’shallach (After he had let go)(Sh’mot) Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftorah Reading: Judges 4:4-5:31
Tonight we read a Torah portion that has many important themes some of which we will cover tonight. In English this book carries the name Exodus and in this portion we read of the beginning of this forty year process which in and of itself has much to say to us.
To get us started I would like to cover the question I sent out this week which had to do with the waters of Marah and the manna that fell each day, except for Shabbat.
In the early verses of our portion we read of the splitting of the Reed Sea and the death of Pharaoh’s army. We see Israel break into song when they see the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea. Exodus 14:30 The next verse says, “the people feared the L-rd and believed the L-rd and His servant Moses.” In Exodus 15:23 it is written that after three days they could find no water. What is interesting is that it never says they were thirsty, just that they found no water. Then they murmured against Moses. In verse 25 we read where Moses, at G-d’s direction, makes the water sweet and then at the end of the verse he made for them a statute and an ordinance. Now keep this in mind and let us turn to the verses concerning manna. I will not read the entire story but would like to draw your attention to Exodus 15:21-26. In these verses we read the commandment to gather twice as much on Friday and prepare it so they can celebrate the Sabbath without gathering food on that day.
So what does the story of the bitter water and the manna have in common? In both of these cases the people thought their needs were for physical sustenance – food and water. However in both cases G-d gives them what they really need – a spiritual lesson. G-d is showing them and us a principle of how to live our lives in this world. We are to be able to trust G-d at every turn in our life, to trust that He wants us to grow in faith, to be able to see His hand in all of our physical needs. Life is much more than food and water. It is about how even in the lack of or in the plenty, to trust Him to be with us. So in both of these cases we see G-d teaching the people and us that we must be able to look for the spiritual lesson and spiritual growth in everything that we encounter along our walk. It is never about the “thing.” It is always about Him and what He has for us. It is about our perspective.
This brings me to another point that I think is so vital to each of us to grasp and hold on to everyday. I mentioned perspective before. In this Torah portion we see this played out through the use of one Hebrew word. That word is “Nachim.” It appears in Exodus 13:17. In this verse it is used where G-d does not lead the people by way of the Philistines because they may change their perspective on the whole experience of leaving Egypt. So this word Nachim, which can mean both regret and console, is really about how we see an event or experience in our life. As we read on we see Egypt change their mind and regretted letting the people go. We also see Israel go through the same experience when they crossed the sea. On one side they were frightened of Pharaoh’s army while on the other side, they sung and danced when they saw the Egyptians dead on the shore. (Exodus 14:30-31) They believed G-d and His servant Moses but why only then, why not earlier during the plagues? Here they saw the Egyptians dead on the shore. G-d was teaching them their former masters were dead! They saw them dead with their physical eyes and now they were truly free. It is an interesting fact that slaves see freedom as becoming a master themselves. It is their only example of what freedom looks like.
So here G-d is teaching them and us a powerful lesson. In our own lives we sometimes are still slaves to something or someone in our past lives. Like the people of Israel, we must come to the place of seeing our former “master” as dead by the shore. Our inner master is dead and G-d can and has set us free. We can and should remember what it was like to be a slave before our salvation and to use that memory to never allow another “master” in our lives again. G-d wants to be our master and for us to grow in Him. G-d’s desire is for us to grow from drinking milk to enjoying the meat of His word, to walk with Him, to take on the responsibility of doing our part in growing in our faith and changing our perspective.
One other thought before we end. What is the opposite of doubt as far as our faith is concerned? Most might say that certainty is the opposite of doubt but I would like to go further than that. Certainty can be a road to box G-d into only what our limited mind can comprehend. There is something higher than certainty and that is wonder or awe. Faith is built on the assurance that G-d has a solution but when I don’t see it the awe and wonder of G-d takes me to that place of not limiting the Father by my own ideas or limited knowledge.