This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
|Photograph by Stilknecht - Freelance Grafik Design Artist|
When Israel leaves Egypt they are like jail birds blinking in the day light after years of being shackled to the dark underworld that is slavery. In this week's Parshas Beshalach (the section I'm honing in on anyway) the sun gives rise to the dawning of a new age. Bnei Yisrael exits Egypt and enter freedom but they do not do it by sneaking out like thieves in the night. They do not slip out Egypt's back door and into obscurity (like most enslaved peoples will). They dance out covered from head to toe in gold, silver and the latest in fashion - all last minute presents bestowed upon them by their oppressors. "Bnei Yisrael march out into the desert in triumph" (Exodus 14:8). They arrive at the shores of the yam suf (sea of reeds) and pause. They're stuck. Meanwhile, Pharaoh, unable to admit defeat, gives chase. Hahem informs Moshe, "Speak to the children of Israel, and let them turn back and encamp in front of Pi hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; in front of Baal Zephon, you shall encamp opposite it, by the sea. At the same time, 'Pharaoh will be saying about the children of Israel, 'They are trapped in the land. The desert has closed in upon them.' "(14:1-3). Pharaoh, Like every power crazed madman in history, fails to acquire common sense. Egypt is in shambles; the ten plagues have devastated all their resources. Thousands are either dead or wounded. What was he thinking? Never mind, G-d was saving the best for last.
"Bnei Yisrael lift their eyes, see the Egyptians and scream out to G-d" (14:10). As per G-d's instructions "Moshe lifts his hand up and G-d drives the waters back to dry land" (14:21). The sea splits. At the same time, every other source of water in the world splits: oceans, rivers, lakes... cups of tea. Everyone gets a brief share in the taste of Bnei Yisrael's liberty and they tremble in fear of G-d. When the Jews enter the yam suf, they stroll between two solid walls of water. It is like a field trip through the hallways of an aquarium. When Pharaoh's people follow, though, the walls come crashing down. Everyone drowns. Finis Egypt's reign as a world power.
Thus the Jews head into forty years of wandering in barren wasteland. After decades of hard labor the prisoner makes his bid for freedom. However, if he's been institutionalized by penitentiary how does he learn to cope with the outside world? Many ex-prisoners become habituated with prison life; they end up returning to that dreaded steel entrance, like lost puppies, begging, "Can I return to my cell?" How did the Jews function with the idea that, 'Now, I have to take care of myself. Egypt's not going to provide for me anymore.' The desert journey stripped everyone of the terrifying illusion that one must fend for himself. Where did they get food? One cannot sell sand in the Sahara to make a living. G-d provided them with the manna which floated down from the heavens accompanied by the morning dew. He also filled them spiritually with verses from the written Torah while He instructed Moshe on how to teach them the Oral law. He gave our nation freedom not only in the physical sense but in an emotional, transcendental form as well. We relied entirely upon our father in heaven.
May we be blessed that we always feel the freedom of depending solely on Hashem. He is behind everything that happens. All we need to do is recognize the clues.