Studying Parashat Beshalach

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A study on

Beshalach

(Exodus 13:17–17:16)

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

Instant gratification, these two words seem to be at the forefront of many minds in general today. At least, that's what one might be led to believe based on the foods that are consumed. I am well aware there are those who just do not have much time to eat a good breakfast, even though you know it's the most important meal of the day? Thus sadly for some McDonald’s comes to the rescue with some decidedly treif food on offer with in one convenient package.

Although I’m not a Luddite; I have nothing against convenience. But sometimes our quest for instant gratification goes very much overboard and this is true in the consumer marketplace, however it also might well be true in our encounters with the Divine.

In this week’s (2021) Torah portion Beshalach, the Israelites have finally been freed from Egyptian slavery, after 400 or so years of bondage and the stop-and-go negotiations between Moses and Aaron and the Pharaoh. They have witnessed the Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt, as well as the splitting of the Red Sea. After such amazing displays of Elohim’s power, it is no wonder that the people had such a strong faith in Elohim, blessed be He, as they in great voice sang;

is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation; this is my Elohim, and I will glorify Him; my father’s Elohim, and I will exalt Him” Shemot – Exodus 15:2 (JPS version of the Torah with corrections).

And they also proclaimed’

 will reign for ever and ever!” Shemot – Exodus 15;18 (JPS version of the Torah with corrections).

But such as human nature tends to be, sadly all too soon the awe and wonder somehow suddenly wore off. And now the Israelites were eager for another big miracle, but there was none forthcoming. So typically like mankind, they said “OK, that was a great trick with the sea and all, but what have you done for us lately?” We are getting hungry and what we are eating is not that great, and we really would like something better now”. And when it is not delivered instantaneously, the people seems to get rather nasty. For now they even begin to wonder if they were not really better-off if they had stayed in Egypt. Yes there, things were not great, but there was a sense of predictability to everything bad, but the food was OK. The grumbling eventually reaches its peak when the people begin to really go mad, for they now began to yell out;

“Is among us, or not?” Shemot – Exodus 17:7 (JPS version of the Torah with corrections).

Although it is easy to look at the behaviour of our Israelite ancestors and call them fickle; we might be quick to criticize their readiness to change allegiances so hastily. But often we behave in much the same manner ourselves. We pray to Elohim for things that we feel we need, and then we are gravely disappointed when our prayers are not answered with measurable results. When we fail to pass the test, to get the promotion for which we have prayed, or even win a lottery, we feel that Elohim has somehow not heard us.

I heard a story recently about a dear lady who somehow considered herself a ‘Baalat T’shuvah’ (a master of return) in Talmudic times, it was used to describe repentant sinners. And she took the Talmudic injunction so seriously she began to recite one hundred Braches – blessings every day. Perhaps she took it too seriously. Not only did she recite the fixed blessings and Tefillah’s found in the Siddur, she also prayed for a good parking space, enough hot water for her shower, some extra money, and so forth.

To me, this woman's story is representative of the “babble” that has crept into many of our encounters with the Elohim. We are so focused on the little things what we want from our Heavenly Father and on our desire for the instant gratification of these requests that we fail to recognize the various wondrous acts of Elohim, blessed be He that constantly occur all around us. We ask why miracles no longer happen in our world, when the truth of the matter is that we simply have forgotten how to recognize a miracle.

The truth is that the world is full of miracles and wonders, but we take our hands and cover our spiritual eyes and what do we see, absolutely nothing.

Is it not time that we learn that we have already seen so much good, and although times tend to go up, and yes they do go down, but remember Elohim, blessed be He is always with us, and He cares for you! He never leaves us, stay strong in our faith, up hold the Torah and keep and share a Mitzvot. And remember a person must bless Elohim for bad tidings just as we will bless Elohim for the good times! In our encounters with the Divine, let us learn to cast aside our fickleness, to forgo our longing for instant gratification, and learn to bless Elohim for everything we have, praise Him for the big and the small things, thank Elohim, blessed be He, for all of the countless kindnesses that He has shown to our ancestors and to all of us!

I know, but I am about to reveal my age, OK so I am a Holocaust survivor thus rather on the elderly side, but I recall this song not so much because I was into this band, but I recall hearing it somehow and it was that lyric I found to be so true and it always remained with me, for I found that it fitted what I thought about the situation in this very situation with our grumbling people who had been so brilliantly saved by our loving Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name!

“You can't always get what you want … but if you try, sometimes you just might find you get what you need”. By Mick Jagger & Keith Richards.

I highly recommend you also read …

The Waters of Meribah

Here is something extra:

I am always amazed that there are so few who actually know and understand that when Avram - Abram was born there was still another great man of faith alive. This man was his ancestor Noach - Noah who actually died when Avram was about 58 years of age, according to the “Mishnah” (for our non-Jewish readers – this is the Hebrew oral telling of the Torah). Avram as a child at various times lived with Noach and it would stand to reason that he would have been Avram’s teacher regarding the one true Elohim, blessed be He, for as we may well know from the Scriptures that Avram’s father Terach lived in the ways of the Chaldeans, including worshipping of the moon god! Thus slowly Avram, whilst he was with Noach, came to know the Creator of heaven and earth and he began to worship the Elohim of all creation! As the eldest son of the family he had the responsibility of instructing the children on spiritual matters.

Thus in Bereshit - Genesis, Avram - Abram abandons everything he has ever known in order to embrace his new faith. He seeks no proof of Elohim's greatness but accepts it at face value as told by his ancestor. When was the last time you trusted in something with blind faith? What gave you the confidence to do so?

Let us ask the following questions; “What is required of us in our relationship with Elohim?” and, “What are the consequences if we fail to fulfil our end of the bargain?”

What is the difference between what we “want” and what we “need”? Is it appropriate to ask Elohim to satisfy our “wants”? Is it appropriate to ask Elohim to satisfy our “needs”?

“You can't always get what you want … but if you try, sometimes you just might find you get what you need”

Get the picture?

Please remember to say the “Shema Yisroel” twice per day!

 

She’ma Yis’roel HaSHEM () Elo’hey’nu, HaSHEM () ECHAD.

Hear O Israel, HaSHEM () our Elohim, HaSHEM () is ONE!

Ba’ruch Shem Ka’vod Mal’chu’to Le’olam Va’ed.

Blessed be His Name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.

Read Davarim (Duet) 6:5 to 9.

 

May Elohim bless and keep you in the palm of His ever loving hands!

And please remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

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