Parshat Beshalach: Moses Parts Sea, Enters Desert, Faces the Amalekites

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“Passage of the Jews Through the Red Sea,” 1891 oil on canvas painting by Ivan Aivazovsky (Private collection via Wikimedia Commons)

In last week’s parshah, after years of the Jews’ enslavement and then the 10 plagues that G-d heaped upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh finally lets the Jews go. But in this week’s parshah (“Beshalach,” meaning “When he sent”), no sooner are the Jews out of Egypt than Pharaoh changes his mind and begins chasing after them.

Now, in front of the Jews is the sea, and behind them is Pharaoh with thousands of trained soldiers. If the group of Jews moves forward, then they will drown. But if they turn around or do nothing, Pharaoh and his army will reach them, and they will be forced back to Egypt.

What to do? They are trapped!

G-d tells Moses to take his staff and stretch it over the water. Moses does so, and an amazing miracle happens — the sea splits, allowing the Jews to walk through it via a stretch of dry land. The Egyptians try to follow the Jews into the sea, but the sea begins to flow again and closes in on them.

When the Jews come to the other side, they sing a song of thanks to G-d, awesomely grateful for the miraculous way they were saved.

Now the Jews have come to the desert, and they are worried that they will not have food to eat. So G-d sends quail for meat, and every morning, a special food called manna falls from the sky to the ground. The Jews collect one portion of manna every day. But on Friday, a double portion comes to consume over Shabbat, as no manna will descend on the Sabbath, which is the Divinely decreed day of rest. Some disobey and go to gather manna on the seventh day, but find nothing. Aaron preserves a small quantity of manna in a jar as a testimony for future generations.

Then Moses hits a rock, and it becomes a fountain, giving the Jews water.

Next, a nation called Amalek comes and attacks the Jews. Moses sends Joshua to gather an army of Jews and go fight them. Joshua does this, and he wins against the Amalekites. But G-d remains very angry and promises to never forget what Amalek did to the Jews — that they were the first one to attack them in the desert.

Copyright and reprinted with permission from Chabad.org. For more insights on the Torah portion, visit: Chabad.org/Parshah.

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