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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Exodus / Shmot - Beshalach 101
Posted June, 2000
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Parshah Beshalach encompasses Yud-Gimel:yud-zayin (13:17) through Yud-Zayin:tet-zayin (17:16).  This Parshah covers the Ivri'im leaving Mitzrayim, the miracle at the Sea of Reeds when Hashem opened the waters and allowed Israel to pass through, the feeding of the people in the desert with the mahn and the quail, and the battle with the Amalekites.

There is one very interesting verse at Tet-Vav:beit (15:2).  The first verse begins with the words, "I shall sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea."  This begins what is known as the Song at the Sea.  The Song continues to and includes verse yud-tet (19).

This Song of the Sea is recited every day in the morning prayer service in its entirety.  The second verse is as follows:

The might and vengeance of G-d was salvation for me.  This is my G-d and I will build Him a Sanctuary; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.

The commentaries on this particular verse are quite extensive.  Here are some examples:

Rashi tells us that "the might and vengeance," represents G-d's strength and that strength against the Egyptians provided salvation for the Hebrews who were trapped with their backs to the sea.  How interesting that over the past 60 years, there were a number of times that Hashem provided that same salvation to those in Israel with their backs to the Mediterranean Sea.

With reference to "This is my G-d," Rashi points out that every single person that day recognized that Hashem was her or his personal G-d.  On an interesting note, the Rambam points out that, in this particular instance, the Torah shows the shorter version of Hashem's name that uses only two characters as opposed to the more standard form of four letters.  The Rambam explains that this demonstrates that the full degree of Hashem's greatness is hidden from the world and that the Hebrews are declaring that they will strive to honor and elevate man's perception of G-d so that He would be recognized in His full glory by all mankind.  Interestingly enough, this is one of the prophecies concerning the moshiach - that with his coming, all will be aware of Hashem and His greatness.

According to Onkelos, Rashi, and Ibn Ezra, "And I will build Him a Sanctuary," can be taken literally as "I will glorify Him," and this is Klal Yisrael's first commitment to build the Beit Hamikdash or Temple as a place for G-d's Presence.  Additionally, Rashi stated that this verse can also be taken as, "I will beautify Him" by relating His praises.  How interesting that so much can be tied into these few words.  The Sanctuary relates to the Temple and Sefer T'hillim (the Book of Psalms) sings the praises of Hashem over and over in the most beautiful of poetry.  And, or course, the author of T'hillim is David ha Melech (King David), the father of Shlomo ha Melech (King Solomon) who was the builder of the Beit Hamikdash.

The final words that are commented on are "The G-d of my father."  To quote Rashi,

". . . this is the Jew's acknowledgement that his own spiritual stature is his legacy from previous generations: "I am not the beginning of holiness; rather, holiness and His G-dliness is firmly established upon me from the days of my forefathers."

It is remarkable how many thoughts can be derived from these few words and how many of them are markers for our understanding of what it means to be a Jew:  G-d's Strength and Salvation over three thousand years ago and today in modern times; a clear statement that we still follow identifying Hashem as one true and living G-d and our hope that the world will soon see this; the prophecy of the Beit Hamikdash and our prayers today for the third and final Temple; and the understanding that our role as Jews is only what it is thanks to all of those who came before us.  This verse draws an uninterrupted line from today all the way back to that most important of historical events when the Children of Israel stood on dry ground, looked back at the Sea and understood their salvation and from whom that salvation came.

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Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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