Working together with G-d
Torah Portion: B’shallach (And It Came to Pass) Exodus (Sh’mot) 13:17-17:16
Haftorah Reading: Judges 4:4-5:31
This Torah portion begins with the actual Exodus from Egypt that will not end until we get through the last book of Torah. It begins with verse 13:17 where we read that G-d took them the long way around rather than the more direct route by way of the Philistines. The question arises why did He choose the long way rather than a direct path? What do you think? Keep in mind also that before this portion ends we read of the people fighting and winning a battle with the Amalekites. So, there must be a deeper reason other than the fear of war.
One reason may be hinted at in the Hebrew word for Egypt. This word is Mitzryim. In Hebrew it means limits or restrictions. Remember these people lived for 400 years in a place that had strict limits on their lives. You can take a slave out of Egypt but it takes time to take slavery out of the slave. I think this time in the wilderness was to give them time to learn new boundaries for their lives, more G-dly boundaries. For the first time they had to make choices on their own and deal with the results of those choices.
Their first stop after leaving Egypt was when they stopped at a place between Pihahiroth and Baal Zephon. Let’s take a moment and look at these names. Pihahiroth has a meaning in Hebrew of “mouth of freedom” while Baal Zephon means “lord of the north.”
Think about these names. They were at the place of choosing to go through the mouth of freedom and on to the Promised Land or returning to the idol worship of Egypt. They chose freedom. I think we all can identify with the people here. We have all had to make the same choice, to be set free from our past and begin a new life as one of G-d’s people or stay as a slave to Egypt. In the weeks ahead we will see them falter from time to time but in the end they reached their destination. We may falter but G-d is still there to forgive us and lead us on to our final destination.
Jean and I were listening to two men speak about this Torah portion. They had an interesting take on this process the people of Israel went through. They compared passing through the waters of the Reed Sea to the human birth process and when they arrive on the other shore the people were like new born babies. Like a new born baby, their first complaints centered around the need for food and water. Again, I think we can all identify with this in our own spiritual life. In John 3:3-7 we read Yeshua expressing this same point. When we become a believer we are born again. As new babies we all need spiritual food and water. We all learn new boundaries and ways of living. This is basically the place the children of Israel found themselves after crossing the sea. The next forty years were years of maturing. We as believers need time to mature in our spiritual walk. However, we are to grow and begin to eat meat. (Hebrew 5:12)
One more interesting Hebrew word and then to our question of the week. In Sh’mot 15:2 we read in English, “He is my G-d and I will praise Him.” In Hebrew it reads, “ He is my G-d and I will act together with Him.” The Hebrew word is An-v-hoo. This word can be read as I and Him, stressing our working together with G-d to achieve His purpose in this world. G-d expects our participation in the His work in this world. In Sh’mot 14:14-15 we read Moshe telling the people that G-d would fight for them and bring them over the Sea. The very next words in 14:15 are G-d’s words to Moshe, saying in effect, that now they, the people, were to do their part and move! He is saying that to each of us. Do your part.
Now to our question of the week, how do we normally picture the splitting of the Sea when Moshe raised his hands? Hollywood gave us the most popular picture. Moshe raised his hands and the sea rolled back immediately. However, when we read the passage that picture does not hold up very well. In verse 14:21 we read that Moshe stretched out his hand and the L-rd caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night, and made the land dry and the waters were divided. By reading this verse how long did it take for the sea to split? It took all night. So rather than being an instant miracle, it was a miracle that took a while. This brings up an interesting question for us all. My point for us is, how are we at waiting for G-d’s answers to our prayers? Again, we are a people who have been conditioned to expect instant results. Sometimes this bleeds over into our thought about G-d and prayer.
The picture of this miracle taking a bit of time is made clearer by the wording in verse 14:21. In this verse the word used to describe the water’s movement is vaholek. This translates as walked. The sea walked back all night while Moshe stood with his hand stretched out. When G-d gives you a promise or puts something on your heart to pray about His time table is not our concern. Our responsibility is to pray until He answers. He works on His time table not ours. So, here G-d used an east wind to accomplish His will. All He asked of Moshe was to stretch out his hand, to do his part, then it truly was him and G-d, Ani-v-hu. So may it be with us.
Have any of you found verses mentioning the east week in scripture? How is it usually portrayed? Here are a few verses on how G-d used the east wind.
Jeremiah 18:17, Jonah 4:8, Job 15:2, 27:21, Psalms 48:7