Parsha Thought – Beshalach

The Songs of Joy (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

In this weeks Torah portion, Israel begins their exodus from Egypt. On the third day of their departure they are told to “turn back and encamp before Pi-HaHiroth” [lit. Mouth of the Freedom] (Exodus 14:2). Here they will be absolutely trapped. The sea behind them, the mountains on their sides and the idol of Ba’al-Zephon in front of them.

Why might they do this? This particular idol was said to have watched over and protected travelers of the sea. It was this very idol that would cause Pharaoh’s ego to get the best of him one last time. Seeing the Israelites had no way out, he and his armies raced toward them, all the while spurned on by the idol between them.

Once the sea split and the Israelites began to cross, the Egyptians followed after them. “And it came to be, in the morning watch, that יהוה looked down upon the army of the Mitsrites through the column of fire and cloud, and He brought the army of the Mitsrites into confusion. And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty. And the Mitsrites said, “Let us flee from the face of Yisra’ěl, for יהוה fights for them against the Mitsrites.” (Exodus 14:24-25)

Were Pharaoh and his armies vexed and distraught when they realized Ba’al-Zephon was not interceding on their behalf? Or could this confusion (vaiyahom) have been caused when they realized finally that the God of Israel was the only God capable of such wonders and signs that they had been witness to in Egypt? 

Regardless of what caused the confusion, Elohim accomplished what He had set out to do: “But I am to be esteemed through Pharaoh and over all his army, and the Mitsrites shall know that I am יהוה.” What could an entire nation do after witnessing deliverance on such a grandeur scale? They sang and all of the women, led by Miriam, danced. What have you been through lately that He deserves praise for?

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