Posted on March 23, 2011
by Shoshi Rosenbaum
Don’t you hate sitting in class during those last agonizing minutes of the school day and staring at the clock, waiting for the end of school to come around so you can get up and be free? Now, I realize that due to TV and AIM and all of those technological advancements, today’s teenagers have no attention span whatsoever, and it seems like an eternity to be stuck in class for 45 minutes- or in school for a whole day. Can you imagine how it would feel to be enslaved, really enslaved, for years?
In this week’s parsha, B’shallach, B’nai Yisrael (The Israelites) has just been permitted to leave Mitzrayim (Egypt), and they are traveling through the Midbar (Wilderness/Desert), as a new, free people.
When you get home from a long day at school, it’s hard to focus energy into something new right away because of the thrill that you get from being free from those long, boring classes. It’s really easy to plop down in front of the computer or TV and just relax. But there’s a lot that has to get done in that crucial time between when school gets out and when you go to bed, if you go to bed. New freedom can bring irresponsibility, uncertainty, challenge, and despair.
B’nai Yisrael had to deal with the new freedom they were experiencing once they were no longer bound by slavery in Mtzrayim. They had many questions to ask, and many doubts about G-d during these times, and they voiced these concerns quite often. This is similar to typical college-bound teenagers, who are searching and doubting and formulating opinions. (Not that living at home is slavery or anything.but I bet you can see the parallel.)
I found something at the beginning of the Parsha that bothered me a bit. When we are told the story of B’nai Yisrael leaving Mitzrayim in school or Hebrew school, we are told that Pharaoh changed his mind after he let B’nai Yisrael free, and ran after them. But the text of the Torah says in 14:8, “Vaychazek HaShem et lev Paroh melech Mitzrayim vayirdof acharay B’nai Yisrael,” “And G-d strengthened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he pursued B’nai Yisrael.” So, Pharaoh had G-d’s help with this? G-d said to Moses previously in 14:4 that, “V’ikavdah b’pharoh uv’chol chaylo v’yadu Mitzrayim ki ani HaShem,” “I will be glorified through Pharaoh and through his entire army, and Egypt will know that I am G-d.” It appears to me that G-d also wanted to show the Jews, not only the Egyptians that G-d is G-d, because G-d performed the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea right before the eyes of B’nai Yisrael.
Once G-d split the Red Sea, the faith of B’nai Yisrael was renewed. Miriam led the women in singing and dancing, just like in that great Debbie Friedman song, and they all sang “Az Yashir,” which we now recite every day in our morning prayer, Shacharit. It was a time of certainty for the community, and a beginning of free community life for Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel). The Jews were so steadfast in their belief in G-d that they claimed in 15:18, “HaShem yimloch l’olam vaed,” that, “G-d will reign for all eternity.” From this, we can learn the importance of being a part of a community and sharing experiences with other people, specifically spiritual experiences.
However, once the miracle was over, the Jews forgot about it because they couldn’t find any water, and again they questioned the existence of G-d. One would think that in that time, when G-d was so involved within the daily life of B’nai Yisrael, it would be easy to notice G-d’s presence. And if it were hard in that time, it is even more difficult to see miracles that G-d may be performing for us now. It is easy to complain, a little bit more difficult to question, and even more difficult to search for answers. Are YOU up for the challenge? Shabbat Shalom!