Texts: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16 || Judges 4:4-5:31
NOTE: Kol HaTor, in its commentaries on the weekly Parashot, endeavours to search for and accentuate the Torah Messages contained in the Parashot as applicable to the main Theme of Tanach of the Return of the House of Israel, i.e. the Lost Ten Tribes of Northern Israel and their Reconciliation with Judah to form the reunited 12-Tribed Kingdom of Israel.
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DISCLAIMER – The authors whom we quote from for this Commentary are not associated with KOL HA’TOR and need not agree with our views expressed herein or in our other publications. While we publish their views for its relative value to the interpretation of the Parashah, KOL HATOR does not necessarily agree with the views expressed by these authors.
Shabbat Shirah (Sabbath of Song) is the special Shabbat when we read Parshat Beshalach which is the Torah portion that includes the Song at the Sea.
Tradition teaches that there are only ten true Songs (Shirot, the plural of Shirah) in the history of the world. These true Songs are not mere melodies; they are expressions of the harmony of creation and mark monumental transitions in history. Another of these Songs appears on the Haftarah portion for the week (Judges 4:4-5:31): the Song of Deborah.
The Song of Songs is, of course, one of the Ten Songs. (ref)
Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum (AZAMRA Parshah) makes the following interesting observations in his commentary on Parashat B’Shalach:
“The lessons learned by the Children of Israel in ALL their wanderings in the Wilderness are integral parts of this same Torah, as in this week’s parshah of BESHALACH, which begins to relate their encounter with the harsh reality of the Wilderness after the exuberance of the Exodus. [Similar to the experience of a soul who has found and turned to G-d, released and facing a New Life].
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“Directly after the triumphant march of the Children of Israel out of Egypt “with a high hand”, they appear to go into retreat, and their former masters come racing after them to recapture them. Directly after they depart from the Red Sea after witnessing the greatest ever freak event in the natural order, they find themselves three days into the Wilderness with no water to drink. They go further, and they have nothing to eat. They find food today, but will they have food tomorrow? They go further — and again there is nothing to drink. Suddenly, their deadliest enemies, the Amalekites attack.
“The Promise is that at the end of the journey lies the “happy ending” — the Land flowing with milk and honey. But unlike in fairy tales, the path through the speaking, teaching Wilderness of reality is long and arduous, twisting and turning in frightening ways. Each twist and turn in the journey comes to teach a new aspect of faith in G-d: faith in the miracles that take place in and through the workings of nature (“and they BELIEVED in HaShem and in Moses his servant”, Ex. 14:31); faith in the miracles through which we receive our livelihood (the root of MANNA is the same as EMUNAH, faith); faith in G-d’s miraculous power to heal through our keeping the Torah (“I, HaShem am your healer” Ex. 15:26); faith in G-d’s power to conquer the forces of evil (“and his hands were faith” Ex. 17:12).
“At the very center of this Song, to which all the world dances, is the vision of the Holy Temple, the House on G-d’s Mountain in Jerusalem. This too is an integral part of BEREISHIT, the letters of which, when rearranged, spell out BAYIT ROSH — the “House that is the Head”. “In Your kindness You have taken this people that You redeemed, You have led them in Your strength to the dwelling-place of Your holiness. You will bring them and plant them on the Mountain of Your inheritance, the foundation of Your dwelling place that You have made, HaShem, the Sanctuary, O G-d, that Your hands have formed” (Ex. Ch. 15 vv. 13 & 17).”
Shabbat Shirah is also a special Sabbath for another reason:
“Parshat BESHALACH is always read just prior to the festival of TU BISHVAT (15th of Shevat). Many people think of this as the “Festival of Trees”. However, the Mishneh (Rosh HaShanah 1:1) refers to it as the “New Year of THE TREE”. On one level, this is an allusion to the Etrog tree — and it is proper on Tu Bishvat to offer a prayer for the Etrog one will take in eight months time on the festival of Succos, for it is now, after Tu Bishvat, that the fruit begins to develop and grow on the tree. On another level, “THE TREE” is an allusion to the Tree of Life, which begins sending fresh vitality and life into the world just when spring starts to appear in the Land of Israel and the water from the winter rains enters the trees from the soil, sending energizing sap all through them.”
“And they came to Marah and they could not drink the waters for they were bitter. And he cried to HaShem, and HaShem SHOWED HIM (or “taught him”) A TREE and he cast it into the waters and they were sweetened” (Exodus 15:23, 25).
“The ‘Tree’ that sweetens the bitterness of life is the Torah, which provides us with the waters of DA’AS [Da’at], understanding of how evil is joined to good as part of G-d’s unity.
“The first laws of the Torah were given at Marah: “There He placed for him [i.e. Israel] a law and judgment, and there He tested [the people]. And He said, If you will surely listen to the voice of HaShem your G-d and do what is right in His eyes and listen to His commandments and guard all His statutes, all the diseases that I have put upon Egypt I will not put upon you, for I HaShem am your healer” (Ex. 15:25-6).
“The laws given at Marah were those of Shabbos (Shabbat), the Red Heiffer (purifying from defilement from contact with a dead body) and DINIM, the laws governing our relations with others (see Rashi on Ex. 15:25). All three are bound up with healing. Only through keeping Shabbos is it possible to heal from the curse of Adam, “with the sweat of your brow you will eat bread”. Man is forced to work in the world. The only release from this slavery (Egypt) is to abstain from work for one day of the week, in order to elevate the work of all the days of the week to the service of G-d. The Ashes of the Red Heiffer are the source of all healing (EPHER = ashes, has the same letters as the root RAPA = heal), for if we cannot heal from death and integrate it into our vision of life, we cannot heal from anything. The laws governing our relations with others in our family, marital, business and other dealings are the foundation of social healing, which must go hand in hand with individual healing.”
The Amazing Compassion and Grace of HaShem
We conclude this Parashah with an heart-rendering review by Rabbi Pinchas Winston Torah.org about the Jewish view of G-d’s Grace and forgiveness:
It stems from the event of Israel’s passing through the Sea, between two great threatening walls of water on either side:
The author quotes the Gaon of Vilna: ” The Torah is hinting to us through this slight change of spelling [of two references to the walls of water] that there was reason for G-d to be angry at the [Hebrew] people who crossed the sea on dry land, a very dangerous situation. The question is, what happened all of a sudden to change the mood of G-d at this most precarious moment in the redemption process?
“Michah. According to the Midrash, Michah, who belonged to the Tribe of Dan, had brought along with him an idol from Egypt. Being the last tribe to leave the sea, there came a point when he was the only tribe to remain between the walls of water, at which point the Attribute of Justice began to accuse him before G-d.
“For, as long as the rest of the [Hebrew] nation were still crossing the sea, the miracle was justified in their merit. However, once only the Tribe of Dan remained in the sea, the Attribute of Justice complained before G-d that the miracle should not be upheld on their account, because of the idol of Michah (Likutei Torah, Derech Avos). Hence the word cheimah, alluding to the anger G-d had towards the tribe of Dan for Michah’s idol.
“Anger, yes. Destruction of the tribe, no. The question, is what stayed G-d’s hand of strict justice? Why did He not carry through with the demand of the angels to take Michah and his tribe to task for the idol worship they still perpetrated? The answer to this question is here:
“It says in Shir HaShirim [Song of Songs] Rabbah (2:8:2): When Moshe came and told the people: “In this month you will be redeemed,” they asked him, “Moshe Rabbeinu, how can we be redeemed? All of Egypt is steeped in our idol worship!” He answered them, “Since He wants you to be redeemed, He does not look at your idol worship but instead skips over mountains” (Shir HaShirim 2:8) . . . He explained to the people that The Holy One, Blessed is He, was dealing with them on the level of the light of Arich Anpin called Ayin, which works above any measure; it does not depend upon merit or demerit. (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 2, Drush 4, Anaf 5, Siman 4).
“The Midrash is a play on a verse from Shir HaShirim about G-d “skipping over mountains,” the mountain this time being the grave sin of idol worship. Incredibly, when a keitz comes, that is, a destined time for redemption that cannot be pushed off, G-d is prepared to even overlook a sin such as idol worship, which is considered to be a rejection of the entire Torah, just to redeem His people.
“That is the reason why G-d did not exact punishment on the Tribe of Dan; His desire to redeem the Jewish people overcame His desire to punish them, and therefore, they were allowed to survive. The time would come in the future, in the episode of the Concubine of Givah, when the nation would pay for Michah#s idol, but not now, not while redemption was in the process.
“However, there is another reason as to why G-d let the Tribe of Dan off the hook at this time:
“Nothing stands in the way of bitachon, as it says in the Midrash: ‘One who trusts in G-d will be surrounded by kindness (Tehillim 32:10)’ even an evil person who trusts in G-d will be surrounded by kindness. (Midrash Tehillim 32:10). It further says: “Many are the agonies of the wicked, because they do not place their trust in The Holy One, Blessed is He” . . . The Ramban says something similar: “This is why it says, ‘Trust in G-d and do good’ (Tehillim 37:3), and it does not say, ‘Do good and trust in G-d,’ to teach that trust in G-d does not depend upon good deeds at all. Rather, one should trust in G-d whether he is righteous or evil (Sefer Emunah v’Bitachon, Ch. 1). (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 2, Drush 4, Anaf 5, Siman 4)
“As the Nefesh HaChaim explains:
“At the time of the splitting of the sea, G-d told Moshe, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to travel forward!” (Shemos 14:15). This means that their salvation was dependent upon them: If they had enough faith and trust and traveled toward the sea, with confidence and without fear, then this alone would cause the sea to split before them. It would have prompted a response from above which would have led to the necessary miracle to split the sea. (Nefesh HaChaim, Ch. 9).
[Take note 10-Israel!]
“In other words, the bitachon that the Tribe of Dan exhibited by walking into the sea saved their lives while in the sea, in spite of the idol in their possession. Bitachon does not wipe the slate clean of past sins; only teshuvah or punishment can do that. However, in the meantime, it can save a person from a certain disaster during a time of crisis, as was the crossing of the sea. It is that powerful a trait. It is that important to G-d.” (End of Quote).
May the coming year bring us Renewal of Life in Israel. May it prepare the way for closer unity in the nation of HaShem and open the hearts in both Houses of Israel for closer acceptance of each other on basis of the example that He, the G-d of Israel, sets for us!