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February 02, 1996 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-02-02

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A Miraculous Rescue
Begins A Long Journey


haraoh was under the im-
pression the Israelites
were going only for a three
days journey into the
wilderness for the purpose of of-
fering sacrifices when he finally
let them go.
When the Egyptian officers he
had dispatched to bring them
back discovered what had hap-
pened, the Israelites realized
they had no alternative but to
flee further into the desert and
across the Red Sea. But how?
The Egyptians felt that to be
smitten with the 10 plagues and
be compelled to let their slaves
depart with some of their riches
was more than they could en-
The text of this week's sedrah
tells of the miraculous rescue.
After several days, during
which Pharaoh recovered from
his panic over the loss of so
many thousands of his slaves
and laborers, he realized what
he had lost. No sooner had the
Israelites left Egypt than
Pharaoh and his court regretted
the act of emancipation. Quick-
ly they marshalled the cavalry
and chariots.
The Midrash tells how the Is-
raelites were distracted by fear
and demoralized by divided coun-
cils . One group in desperation
said, "Let us cast ourselves into
the sea" Another group said, "Let
us go back to Egypt and submit
to slavery." Still other groups
were in favor of giving battle to
the end. But Moses said to the
people, "Fear ye not! Stand still
and see the salvation of the Lord."
(Exodus 14:13.)
The Torah says, "I will hard-
en the hearts of the Egyptians
and they shall go in after them
and I will get Me honor upon
Pharaoh and upon all his hosts,
his chariots and upon his horse-
men and the Egyptians shall
know that I am the Lord." (Exo-
dus 14:13)
The Torah goes on to say that
a pillar of cloud stood between
the Israelites and the Egyptians
so the latter could.not see the
former slaves whom they were
pursuing. Then, miraculously,
God caused the sea to go back
with a strong east wind. The wa-
ters were divided so that the
children of Israel could go
through. When the waters sub-
sided, the Egyptians who had
been pursuing went in after


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them, in the midst of the sea,
and all perished.
A miraculous rescue! The in-
delible impression that this event
made on Israel was something
never to be forgotten. No matter
what the natural explanation for
the parting of the waters, the Is-
raelites always retold this event
as a miracle, this element as an
act of God.
Now began the long trek that
took 38 years to reach the borders
of Moab before getting ready to
enter Canaan. Moses had no
map. The shorter way to Canaan,
along the coast, the direct cara-
van route, was closed off to them.
The Egyptians had fortresses
along the way.

Shabbat Beshalach:
Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
Judges 4:4 - 5:31.

Instead of continuing to march
northward along the coast of the
Mediterranean, they were bid to
turn south, keeping the Gulf of
Suez on their left and following
landmarks that have long since
The Midrash emphasized the
fact that the perishing of the
Egyptians marred the complete-
ness of Israel's victory. The rab-
bis said in the Midrash, "When
the Egyptian hosts were drown-
ing in the Red Sea, the angels in
heaven were about to break into
songs of jubilation, but God si-
lenced them with the words, 'My
creatures are perishing and you
are ready to sing!"'
Chapter 15 contains a memo-
rable song at the Red Sea. It is
one of the oldest bits of poetry in
all of scripture and contains the
poetic fire and vivid imagery of
Israel living through the long
night of salvation. The poem con-
tains a sense of sweeping power,
exaltation and gratitude and had
a strong impact on the people of
With the song ringing in his
ears, Moses was overcome with
emotion. Yet, he did not know
that he was just at the beginning
of a very long journey. The real
task of converting slaves into peo-
ple of God was still ahead. A peo-
ple trained for generations in
bondage could not cast off in-
stantly the effects of that train-
ing. The desert became the
training ground and the next 40
years were to show the genius of
the leadership of Moses. El

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