22 January 2016
This week’s parasha is Beshalach, the fourth portion in the Book of Exodus. After leaving Egypt and escaping towards the Sea of Reeds, Pharaoh’s forces close in and Moses gets his first taste of the challenges of leading the Israelites to freedom: “Greatly frightened, the Israelites…said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?”
Such questions! Such gratitude! Moses is instructed by God to hold his rod over the sea to split it, and you know the rest of the story. But this is only the first in a series of challenges by the recently-freed slaves to both Moses’ and God’s ability to keep them safe. Even the miracle of the crossing of the sea doesn’t transform the Israelites into believers.
We have all heard stories of “life-changing experiences” (today’s snowstorm just might be one of them). This week’s parasha teaches us that faith comes not from without, but from within. The miracles of the plagues and the parting of the sea do not transform the Israelites. That comes over time, and even then, is not a straight line progression. Rather, it is the strong leadership of Moses and receiving the Torah that creates the construct from which faith emerges – and only when the people of Israel are ready.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and warm weekend.