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Reaching Out

By: Ms. Allie Mayer

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe leads Bnei Yisrel out of Egypt. With pillars protecting them day and night, the people leave their servitude on a journey towards becoming a nation in the Promised Land. After Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt, Pharoah realizes what has happened and he calls upon his soldiers to chase after them and rectify his “mistake”. Bnei Yisrael, encamped by the Red Sea as God told them to, see Egyptian legions and chariots charging in their direction. In what seems like a very quick turn of events, Bnei Yisrael notice what is going on and cry out to their leader. Moshe, then, gives Bnei Yisrael a “pump-up” speech, encouraging Bnei Yisrael to have faith and to watch the miracle that will befall onto the nation by the hand of God. Hashem then tells Moshe in 14:15:

- ; -- ".”

The Almighty berates Moshe for screaming out to him and tells him to talk to Bnei Yisrael and go forwards. Hashem then commands Moshe to divide the sea with stick and the miracle occurs.

The Meshech Chachma has an interesting question on the fifteenth verse quoted above. Why does God tell Moshe not to cry out to him? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do in times of need? He gives a beautiful answer: God was not angry at Moshe for turning to him, but rather that he turned to him alone. The word “” is singular. When Bnei Yisrael are distressed, Hashem wants ALL of us to turn to him, not just the leader of the generation.

While the Meshech Chachma offers much insight, his question triggers other inconsistencies in the text. Hashem criticizes Moshe for crying to him and tells him to talk to Bnei Yisrael, but we see right before in the text that Moshe is not crying to Hashem! Rather, he is speaking to Bnei Yisrael, giving them the pump-up speech to see and await for God’s miracle. So why does Hashem tell Moshe -  and then tell him to talk to Bnei Yisrael- that is exactly what he is doing!

Furthermore, the Meshech Chachma answers his question by explaining that only Moshe was crying out to God and Hashem wanted the whole nation to turn to him, not just Moshe. But in verse ten, we see the Bnei Yisrael DID turn to God.

, ; - - , , -, -"

Bnei Yisrael raise their eyes and see the Egyptians chasing after them. They fear very greatly and cry out to Hashem. Right in the text we see that Bnei Yisrael called out to Hashem. So how could it be that the Meshech Chachma claims that they don’t?

The answer to this question can be found in the first three words of the next verse: ", -". In Verse 10, the narration switches to the point of view of Bnei Yisrael: they raise their eyes and behold, the Egyptians are chasing after them (the “behold” tells us it’s Bnei Yisrael’s point of view because the reader, the Egyptians, Moshe, and God all know that the Egyptians are coming so the only ones who can still be surprised by this is Bnei Yisrael). Then, the continuation of verse ten and eleven say that Bnei Yisrael fear greatly, call out to God, and say to Moshe “there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that you had to take us out here to die?”

So how does this answer our question?

When Bnei Yisrael, in their eyes, scream out to God, they begin to talk to Moshe. The words " -, -" are not followed by any words that Bnei Yisrael say to HaShem. Rather, what comes right after are the words that Bnei Yisrael say to Moshe. What Bnei Yisrael perceive as screaming out to God, is really screaming out to Moshe. They understand turning to God to mean turning to their leader, Moshe. That is why, according to the Meshech Chochma, God is angered that only Moshe calls out to him and not Bnei Yisrael even though the text clearly says that they did call out to Hashem. Bnei Yisrael THOUGHT they were calling out to Hashem but actually did NOT. Bnei Yisrael needed to understand that while Moshe is their leader and their representative, he is not meant to be the only way Bnei Yisrael can communicate with the Almighty. God is accessible to each and every Jew and He wants us to talk to him directly.     

We are still left with our other inconsistency: God reprimands Moshe for screaming out to him and tells him to talk to Bnei Yisrael and go forth when Moshe was, in fact, already talking to Bnei Yisrael! An answer to this question can be found in the actual words Moshe says to the people. Verse thirteen says:

" -, --- - , - :  , - -- , -"       

"And Moses said unto the people: 'Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you to-day; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye shall see them again no more forever.”

There is a central theme, and a repeating word in Moshe’s speech. In this one passuk, Moshe uses the verse , which means to see, three times. The theme of Moshe’s talk to the nation is to SEE what God will do for them on that day. Moshe puts zero responsibility on the people and all the responsibility on God. Hashem does all the “doing” and Bnei Yisrael are the passive recipients. So, Hashem tells Moshe - to mean, why are you placing all the action on my shoulders? He follows up and says," " --, – talk to Bnei Yisrael, and move forward. Hashem wants Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael to be active and participate. Don’t just wait idly for God, but display your - your initiative. Don’t tell Bnei Yisrael to sit and wait, tell Bnei Yisrael to take action!

Bnei Yisrael were leaving Egypt, after generations of slavery. They needed to learn from scratch what it means to have a relationship with Hashem. In this scene, we can learn two aspects of what it means to be an '. The Almighty wants to hear from every single one of us. He yearns for us to reach out to him, maybe even for just a quick “hello” in the rigorous schedules of mundane life. Hashem also wants us to play active roles in the relationship. We’re not meant to sit and let Hashem’s wonders wash over us. Our relationship with God, is in fact a partnership: two counterparts initiating and giving to the other.

May we all have the to learn from the lessons of the Parsha, implement them into our lives, and better our relationships with Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom.




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