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Haddy the Hebrew: Parshat Beshalach

This is the first of (what will hopefully be) many Dvar Torahs. Every week, Jews read a section of the Torah, what is commonly known as the Jewish Bible. That section is called a parshah. When someone delivers a sermon on the parshah, it is called a Dvar Torah. My Dvar Torahs will be published on Fridays, so you can read about what the Jews read that week and the message I am taking from it. 

This week’s parshah is Parshat Beshalach, which means, “when he sent”. It begins in Exodus 13:17 and ends at verse 17:16. In last week’s parshah, we read that the Israelites had escaped Egypt. But in this week’s parshah, the Egyptian Pharaoh is regretting letting the enslaved Israelites go, so he gathers up his army to chase after them. The Israelites are terrified when they see the Egyptians riding up in their chariots with their swords and other weapons. They ask Moses why he would take them out of Egypt if they were just going to be killed in the desert. Moses then prays to G-D to save them, and He opens up the sea. The Israelites walk through it and are miraculously saved, but the Egyptian army is drowned. 

Once they are in the desert, the Israelites begin to complain to Moses that they are hungry and thirsty. The sea closest to them has bitter water, and they are running low on food supplies. G-D makes the water sweet so that it can be drunk from and causes a substance called manna to rain down from the sky. Manna is a miraculous food that would take on the taste of whatever one wanted. If you wanted chicken soup, that’s what your food would taste like! And the manna would come down every morning, except for Saturday mornings because of Shabbat. On Friday mornings, the Israelites were instructed to take two portions of manna so that they would have some for Saturday. But, during the other days of the week, the Israelites were forbidden to take a double portion, and if they did their manna would turn wormy and inedible as a punishment. While the manna would come down in the mornings, qual would come at night. This is what sustained the Israelites for all 40 years they spent wandering in the desert. 

At the end of this parshah, the Israelites are attacked by Amalekites, a tribe located near where the Israelites were staying. The Israelites were weak from their escape and were faced with a surprise attack. They feared for their lives but through Moses’ prayers and Joshua’s army, they were able to defeat the Amalekites. 

The part of this parshah that really sticks out to me is when the Israelites are freaking out and scared the Egyptians will kill them in the desert. Moses prays to G-D for help and then assures the Israelites that they will be okay. He says “G-D will fight for you, but you must remain silent!” There is a commentary on this from Rabbi Meri Simchah of Dvinsk in which he explains the meaning of this line. He says “G-D will wage for you even when ‘you must remain silent.’ Even when you have no significant claim to G-D’s help, He will nevertheless defend you against those who attack you.” 

When I read this commentary, it hit me like a wall of bricks. I have been struggling with my faith for many years, never quite knowing what exactly I should do, or how Judaism should fit into my life. Of course, it is the most important part of my life, but I have a hard time with knowing what practices I should be focusing on, what I should be doing more of and what is the “right” thing to do. Sometimes I feel silly praying to G-D and asking for help with something because I am not as devout as I could be. I falter more than I would like to admit, and yet G-D has also helped me in everything. Even when I feel I do not have a significant claim, I am protected and aided by G-D. Some of the Israelites surely felt this way, and yet they were freed from Egypt and were saved and sustained by G-D. 

As Jews, we should know that we are always being protected by G-D, and that He will not resent or turn away from us because of our faults. We can always pray to Him, and He will always answer. We are never lost, no matter how far we stray, because we are always sheltered by Him. 

Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.

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