Beshalach: Redemption and Song
By Ariella Bracha
My beloved Jewish nation, “I am G-d, your G-d who removed you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d to you!”
The Torah portion of Beshalach is in my personal opinion, the most dramatic, heart-wrenching, heart-warming, suspenseful, exciting and revealing Torah portion of the entire five books of Moses. It is the pivotal portion whereby everyone saw and perceived the strength and greatness of G-d. The Shabbat in which we read Beshalach is known as Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song.
Parshat Beshalach contains the beautiful heartfelt song to G-d offered by Moses and the Israelites after their miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Encapsulated in the pages of this dynamic Torah portion is the dramatic exit of the freed slaves from the land of their enslavement, Pharaoh’s change of heart and the ensuing chase, the splitting of the sea creating their ultimate rescue, the inspirational song by the sea, the song and dance of the Jewish women led by Miriam and the miraculous food God provided for them, along with the attack of Amalek. No wonder they made a movie about it! Everyone can relate to it because it is the essential story of the Journey of Life and it is a heart-stopper.
G-d went to great lengths to teach the world and the Jewish nation in particular that He exists, is all-powerful and can change nature. He did so through His Divine plan of inflicting the plagues upon Egypt and Pharaoh. The Jewish nation had to learn that God has a unique relationship with them, different than any other nation. Until they consciously learned the lesson, they could not achieve true freedom. God had to arrange a final triumphal meeting with the Egyptians that would show the nation of Israel once and for all that He was with them and would fight for them. The splitting of the sea was brought about in order to truly free the Jewish people. As a result of their dramatic, miraculous rescue on the banks of the sea, they were enabled to shed their slave mentality and start to grow into their nationhood. This caused an extraordinary outpouring of faith and gratitude that took the form of song of praise which they spontaneously sang on the banks of the Red Sea.
The miracle of the splitting of the Sea, involved the complete abrogation of the laws of nature—G-d suspended the laws of nature. This extraordinary miracle was done on behalf of the Jewish people. It was an unparalleled revelation of G-ds greatness, which with the courage and faith of the Jewish people to move forward, created the birth of the Jewish nation. Thus, with Egyptian slavery behind them, the Israelites triumphantly sang “the beautiful song of the sea” which we recite daily in our prayers as a reminder of G-ds redemption in those times and in these times.
In the Torah, song is defined as a profound spiritual phenomenon. In the Stone Chumash, the commentary explains that “song comes when there is a brilliant flash of insight that makes people realize how all the pieces of the puzzle of life fall into place. This Divine awareness often manifests through a beautiful song. The Torah’s concept of song is the condition in which all apparently unrelated and contradictory phenomena meld into a coherent, merciful, comprehensible whole. At the sea, Moses the leader, and the Jewish people finally understood their situation as never before. For the first time, they realized how every unrelated and incomprehensible event was part of a harmonious symphonic, musical score that led up to the greatest of all miracles.” Midrash Tancuma teaches, because they believed in G-d and what had transpired, they could sing. Only when creation became one harmonious whole in their minds and hearts could the people translate it into a human song. As Or HaChaim notes, “the Torah says ‘then they sang,’ implying that only the miracle at the sea finally enabled the newborn nation of Israel to sing. This elevated status that brought about the outpouring of song was shared by the entire nation. Moshe led the song, but all the people sang responsively with him (Sotah30b). The uniqueness of the song was that an entire nation, not merely its prophets, scholars and leaders, could rise to this level of prophecy.”
The commentary goes on to state that, “This song at the SEA contains the following themes; a) general praise of G-d as the mighty Savior of the Jewish people and their forefathers, before whom no force can stand; b) a review of the miracles that accompanied the splitting of the sea; c) Pharaoh’s plan in pursuing the nation and the utter failure of his design; d) the reaction of the Canaanite and other nations to the miracle and what it portended for them; e) Israel’s future as God’s chosen nation and his chosen land—the land of Israel. The powerful teaching of this song is that Jews are always capable of raising their spiritual perceptions to the level of song first experienced by their ancestors at the sea.”
(Until here from the Stone Chumash commentary)
The “Song” sung at the miraculous splitting of the Sea is as relevant today as it was then. It is realistic and vital to recognize that every day, we have the opportunity to break into spontaneous songs of praise, as we recognize G-ds constant guidance and protection in our lives. Living in Israel, we are more dramatically aware of G-ds Divine Providence, as it manifests in abundance through the modern miracles we witness. We should bear in mind the responsibility to free ourselves from constriction or enslavement in any and all ways that are preventing us from living joyous, productive Jewish lives. We should make a commitment to internalize the profound themes embedded in the “Song sung at the Sea” and recite it daily with added passion and delight. Redemption and Song should become themes that profoundly play out in our own lives both as gifts from G-d to us and as gifts from us to G-d.
May we merit to hear G-ds lullaby to us, his beloved children, along with the composition of our own personal and unique song to Him to be sung all the days of our life with joy. It is a very auspicious time to attend Shabbat services this week at your Shul or Beit HaKinneset.