Exodus 13:17–17:16; Judges 4:4–5:31
Abstract of the Commentary by Michael Schneider, Jerusalem:
This week’s Torah portion tells us that Pharaoh had a change of heart after expelling the children of Israel from Egypt, leading him to chase after them. The Israelites began to panic when they saw Pharaoh’s horses galloping after them. They were quick to forget God’s powerful work and their praises turned to complaints.
Moses stood as a mediator between God and man. Yet, all he heard were the complaints of the people: “Now you let us die here in the desert!” and “Why did you let us out of Egypt?” (14:11-12).
The Midrash tells us to be careful what you say because the words of dying in the desert were fulfilled 40 years later!
The LORD gives the same answer today during times of panic and distress: “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (14:14) and “Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD!”
God had His hand on His people, not allowing them to pass through the land of the Philistines, along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea (which today is the Gaza Strip where the Palestinians live). They had to go through the desert for several reasons, not only to avoid war, but also because of the threat of assimilation and influence of foreign gods.
God wanted His people to have a real change of heart, which was a 40-year journey. The goal was total surrender and dependency on the Lord! It worked best in a dry and barren desert.
God told Moses: “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.”
Commentary by Rabbi Chaim Richman, Temple Institute, Jerusalem:
When G-d parted the waters of the Sea of Reeds He also parted for Israel the curtains of illusion allowing them to see the true reality – a timeless moment of recognition of the Divine light surrounding and permeating our world.
This Shabbat we will also celebrate The New Year For Trees > Chabad: Tu B’Shevat >
From the God given staff, which previously worked wonders in Egypt through bringing the plagues and dividing the sea, Moses used it to hit a rock, pouring forth water for more than 2 million people.
Sadly, we see that even through God’s wondrous works, it didn’t bring true repentance. Just look at the manna from heaven during their days of wandering in the desert.
The manna from heaven became Daily Bread. It becomes a daily provision, not a weekly, monthly or yearly supply (16:18).
The believer should seek the Lord in the morning daily! This also, shows that we are equal in the Lord’s eyes. On Friday, a double portion was given so they could rest on Shabbat. To remember this, we bless two pieces of hallah, braided loaves of bread eaten on Shabbat.
It’s amazing to see that only three days after praising God in the Song of Moses (the Song of the Sea), the children of Israel began grumbling again (15:22).
We find another victorious praise song in our Torah portion in Judges 4 and 5, by Deborah the judge.
So, let’s be thankful and not complain!