Parashat Beshalach – 5784

 Erev Shabbat 26 January 2024

Week of 21-27 January 2024

Torah portion: Exodus 13:17-17:16   Haftarah: Judges 4:4-5:31

Theme: As He Sent – As He Let Go

In this week’s Torah portion, we have felt the richness and profound message of God through the dramatic events surrounding the life of the Israelite people leaving Egypt. The portion covers and marks an eventful journey of God’s chosen people from a slavish to a liberating form of life. The richness of the message is seen in how God, in sending off His people from Egypt, manifests an infinite love and untiring concern for His people. God knows what is best for them. He “did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer,” a great sign of genuine care and concern. Instead, He planned to lead them on a route through the wilderness, though it would take them a while before reaching the Promised Land. As Rabbi Joshua Stanton explains, “One of the stated reasons for taking the long way, which surfaced after the episode with the Golden calf, is for the transition from the generations that knew being enslaved to a new one that only knew freedom and had a more open mindset.” Here, we find God’s strategic wisdom, as He has provided His people with a path that, while longer, protects His people from great danger while taking a short route; and gives them a chance to realize their destiny as a nation of chosen people fully. Their journey is an acclamation of “sending” them away from slavery to “letting” them embrace their freedom. God’s sending is, at the same time, a letting go.

God, through Moses, let His people walk “into the sea on dry ground” from splitting waters that stood like sentinels on both sides, reminding them of God’s protection and security. Both the sending and letting go are God’s expressions of His desire to free His people from slavery, a way to begin anew. Allowing them to be sent to a foreign land and letting them go from Egypt,God brings salvation to them, of course. Together with the longer route there was a trial of faith due to uncertainty. As they crossed the Red Sea, they were also uncertain of their future situation. Here, fear and faith converged. God assures them of His protection, and a song of praise and gratitude burst forth from the mouths of His people. God, indeed, is their ultimate source of deliverance. Their song reminds the future generations of God’s goodness, which brought triumph and joy to His people. But the human frailty remains, and the fragility of their trust and faith in God are difficult to sustain in the face of great adversity. God did not fail them but fed them by sending them provisions.

We also find God’s act of sending and letting go as He sent them into the wilderness: He remained with them; His presence is with them. He also let them go through the trials that would test their faith and trust in, and obedience to Him. The profound message of these dramatic events is that God sent and let go – a manifestation of His unending and infinite love, commitment, and care for His people, Israel.

For Reflection and Discussion: The accounts remind us of our own “crossings’, “walking,” “wilderness,” “bondage,” and “liberation.” What are some of your experiences of ‘crossings,’ ‘walking,’ ‘wilderness,’ ‘bondage,’ and ‘liberation’?

Bibliography: Rabbi Joshua Stanton, “Take the Long Way: Parashat Bashalach,” https://thewisdomdaily.com/take-the-long-way/.

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Ben Carlo N. Atim, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2022

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