Beshelach : The Song at the Sea

Beshelach : The Song at the Sea

O Hashem, whose name is exalted, is awesome beyond words, and is King of the worlds. Jews have praised the name of Hashem ever since our father Abraham discovered him in a world full of idolatry. The men of the great assembly, the sages who composed our order of prayers {Siddurim}, have provided us the words which we have davened with for generations. So much kevannah/intention is packed within these words, the prayers of Pesuki D’Zimra which is full of praise of Hashem, and the Shema which instills so many Jewish principles {such as the unity of Hashem, the mitzvot of Tefillin, Tzit-tzits, and of mezuzzah}, and the Shemonie Esra/Amidah also known as the ‘Standing Prayer’.

But one of the most inspiring portions of the Shabbat Sacharit davening is the reading of the Song at the sea. It is one of the important halachas for the Jew to remember the exodus from slavery in Egypt (According to Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 1:6). This is why we mention it so many times in our prayers, and how we inspire ourselves to raise our level to come closer to Hashem.

Parasha Beshalach is one of the incredibly awesome portions of the book of Shemot/Exodus. The Pharoah finally succumbs to the mind-numbing catastrophes which Hashem sent down to Egypt in order to humble him in the eyes of all the world. Hashem sends the Hebrew slaves down to the Sea of Reeds led by the pillar of clouds and the pillar of fire but Pharoah quickly angers {or as Torah says ‘Has a change of heart’} and sends 600 of his armed chariots to pursue the rag-tag slaves who are now trapped against the sea.

The Jews were petrified at the sight of these war chariots bearing down on them. Imagine the terror at the prospect of either drowning in the sea, or being hacked to death by the merciless Egyptians. Some of these Jews were even complaining against Moses, asking why he took them out to the sea to be killed.

Hashem promised Moses that he will take his people out. He tried to speak words of comfort to them but they became divided. Hashem split the sea just as all seemed lost when Nachshon Ben Aminadav jumped into the water up to his nostrils.

This is another theme which appears in Shemot concerning Miriam, Moses & Aarons sister. Moses mother and father had given up hope for the Jewish people in Egypt. Amram had divorced his wife, Jocheved, because of Pharoahs decree to kill all the Jewish baby boys. But Miriam was able to convince them to get back together, and remarry, and have another child because of a prophecy that the baby would be the redeemer of the Jewish people.

It was Miriams prophecy which allowed Moses to be born despite the loss of hope of her parents. When they saw the light which shone from baby Moses face they knew that Miriams prophecy had been fulfilled. This is why Miriam was so very interested in the fate of Moses after she set him adrift on the Nile in a basket.

Once the Jews had safely passed through the channels in the Sea, the Egyptians became arrogant and descended into the depths of the sea to pursue the Jews, in order to slaughter them. But Hashem had other plans for these Egyptian attack dogs. The sea was turned back and covered the Egyptian horse and its rider with water and they descended into the depths of the sea, like straw in turbulent waters.

The Jewish slaves witnessed their cruel oppressors being destroyed by the hand of Hashem. This is one reason the Jewish people must remember this event. Hashem wanted the Children of Israel to witness these cruel people being punished for their torment of Hashems children. This is why the sea spit out the bodies of the Egyptians onto the shore of the sea.

After the nation had assembled on the shore of the sea and witnessed the Egyptians bodies on the seashore they sang an incredibly awesome song to Hashem. This song we recite in our prayers on Shabbat in order to remember that awesome day.

Here is the translation according to Chabad of the Song:

Chapter 15

1. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.

2. The Eternal’s strength and His vengeance were my salvation; this is my G-d, and I will make Him a habitation, the G-d of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation.

3. The Lord is a Master of war; the Lord is His Name.

4. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He cast into the sea, and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea.

5. The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.

6. Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe.

7. And with Your great pride You tear down those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning wrath; it devours them like straw.

8. And with the breath of Your nostrils the waters were heaped up; the running water stood erect like a wall; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

9. [Because] the enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will share the booty; my desire will be filled from them; I will draw my sword, my hand will impoverish them.

10. You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the powerful waters.

11. Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, powerful in the holy place? Too awesome for praises, performing wonders!

12. You inclined Your right hand; the earth swallowed them up.

13. With Your loving kindness You led the people You redeemed; You led [them] with Your might to Your holy abode.

14. People heard, they trembled; a shudder seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15. Then the chieftains of Edom were startled; [as for] the powerful men of Moab, trembling seized them; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted.

16. May dread and fright fall upon them; with the arm of Your greatness may they become as still as a stone, until Your people cross over, O Lord, until this nation that You have acquired crosses over.

17. You shall bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord; the sanctuary, O Lord, [which] Your hands founded.

18. The Lord will reign to all eternity

19. When Pharaoh’s horses came with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought the waters of the sea back upon them, and the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea,

20. Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

21. And Miriam called out to them, Sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea

How much does Hashem love his people? So very much that he led them out of the land of their oppression by clouds and fire, and smashed their enemy before their eyes. Many people say that we do not live in times of miracles and wonders.

But I disagree with those people. Miracles and wonders are everywhere around us only if we open our eyes to Hashems world. In a world of idolatry, much like we are surrounded by today, a Jew must be able to control how much of the profane we allow into our lives. When we say Shema we must concentrate on not following our heart and our eyes to stray after other forces in this world.

The nay-sayers would say that the plagues in Egypt were just natural events. They would thereby deny that Hashem was behind the scenes, sending clear messages to the Jews and to the Egyptians who eventually were able to see Hashem behind the plagues.

Hashem is a loving father to his children even when they have strayed far from their potential. The Jewish people need to turn back and face Hashem, and accept that they have fallen, and get back up where he wants us to be. There is a reason there is so much opposition to the Jewish people. There is a reason that there is Amalek in the world. We must be able to see Hashem and do what he told us to do in our Holy Torah.

Bless Hashem that we should all merit the final redemption. The glorious redemption from Egypt was the prototype for the future redemption. May we see it soon!



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