Welcome back to our Torah learning blog from Adas Israel the Jewish Congregation of Mason City, Iowa. Yes, really! Each week we offer a brief lesson to get you to think about our faith and get some Torah study in. It's said that when we reach the end of our life the Almighty will have only one question for us, "Did you set aside time to study Torah?" Here we're trying to do what we can for you to answer, "Yes!"
This week is Shabbat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 - 17:16) and Beshalach means "when (he) let go" and is talking about when Pharaoh let the Jewish people go from Egypt. The fastest route from Egypt to Israel would have been along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It would have been a route that would have taken our people through Phillistia. And, G-d knew they would fight the "invading" Jews and that we would, likely, lose faith and wish to turn back around. So...we got a detour.
Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women -- each separately -- sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.
They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey G-d your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt -- the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)
Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. G-d tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah G-d tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
It is all quite the journey and we hope that your journey through the Torah is full of new found thoughts to strengthen your faith.
Candle Lighting Time is 4:59 Friday and Shabbat ends at 6:04 on Saturday.