In the Midst of Night

Moshe Kempinski

Life Lessons from the Torah Portion
“Beshalach “Exodus 13:17–17:16

Moshe Kempinski

The Exodus from Egypt was filled with great and awesome wonders as well as with dramatic calamities. Yet all that transpired was orchestrated and achieved through the “Hand of Hashem”

What followed the Exodus was no less dramatic and was to change the people of Israel for eternity

We read of how G-d begins to orchestrate the lessons that His people were meant to learn;
“It came to pass ( VaYehi ) when Pharaoh let the people go, that G-d did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because G-d said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt”(Exodus 13:17).

Then we read, as the Egyptians come very dangerously close to the fleeing Israelites, the following ;

“The Egyptians chased after them and overtook them encamped by the sea every horse of Pharaoh’s chariots, his horsemen, and his force beside Pi hahiroth, in front of Ba’al Zephon.Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to Hashem.” (Exodus 14:9-10):

The sound of the thundering hooves charging behind them and the raging sea before them , almost broke the spirit of these newly freed slaves. They cry out their fears;

They said to Moshe, Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Isn’t this the thing [about] which we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone, and we will serve the Egyptians, because we would rather serve the Egyptians than die in the desert “ ( ibid:11-12)

Moshe steps in to give them strength and encouragement;

“And Moshe said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Hashem, which He will work for you today; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians today, ye shall see them again no more forever. Hashem will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (ibid: 13-14) .

At the climax of this dramatic scene we see G-d speaking to Moshe and turning the narrative in an unexpected direction;;

And Hashem said unto Moshe: Why are you crying out to Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” ( ibid 14:15).

G-d’s miracles and blessings are opportunities waiting to be seized. They remain in potential until we mortals, Hashem’s creations, step in to make it happen.

The story seems to have reached its climax and this important lesson has been learned. Yet what follows is most unsusual.

“And Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea; and Hashem caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. (ibid 14:21)

That is to say, the Israelites then waited the whole night before the sea split.

Wouldn’t this moment of G-d’s declaration to Moshe have been the most correct moment for the sea to split? Shouldn’t all the events need to climax at this dramatic instant when Moshe raises his staff? At that exact dramatic moment of obedience we should have read “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left”. (ibid 14:21)

Yet that did not happen. What were they meant to learn from this?

In fact this is not the first time that such a lesson was to be learnt

The first Passover meal in Jewish history was a very special meal. Each Jewish family gathered together in Egypt around their family table to celebrate hope and freedom. They sang praises and rejoiced together. Yet, at that Passover meal they were celebrating a redemption that had not yet occurred. They were rejoicing over something that had not yet happened. In fact it would not happen until the long night would be over. It was a meal totally focused on faith and faithfulness.

It is no wonder that G-d Himself brought these people out of Egypt. His people had not lost hope even though their work became harder after Moshe first appeared. They continued to believe in the promise, even though there were great numbers of skeptics amongst them.

A people filled with faith in G-d and the truth of His promises could not avoid redemption.

It was that trait that needed to be emphasized again. It needed to be re-experienced so that it could become engrained in the DNA of this people.

This is a people that felt the enemy crying for revenge behind them and the sea raging with strong winds before them and the wilderness was closing in on all sides. Yet they waited in anticipation all through that night.

That would be an eternal lesson for this people .It will also be an eternal message of faithful patience for all individuals who must struggle through trials and tribulations in their own lives to trust in their Creator and in His timing.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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