"…he sent out"
Our par’sha this week is entitled B’shalach and encompasses the one-hundred sixteen verses between Sh’mot 13.17 and 17.16. As with many, if not most, of the parshiyot of Torah, English translations often fail to capture the essence of the Hebrew text. While some of these occurrences have little impact on the verses, others can be quite misleading. In this week’s study I’ll be focusing on a few Hebrew words to help us better understand the events surrounding the Exodus and the underlying teachings they present.
B’shalach opens with the Exodus from Mitsrayim, although as we discussed before, the word exodus is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Exodus is from the Greek text; ex, meaning out of and hodos- meaning the way. In context, this Greek word means come out of the way of something, as in a particular way of living.
In a Biblical sense, Exodus is a very appropriate word when you consider that both Y’H’V’H our Father and Messiah Y’shua call on us to come out of the world and not participate in the sins of the nations. This is so that we don’t suffer the punishments reserved for them.Yeshayahu 52.11; Rev. 18.4 In a sense, both Y’H’V’H and Messiah Y’shua are asking us to make an exodus from the world. It is something They call on us to do, meaning that it is a voluntary decision we must make that is followed by a definite course of action.
When we understand the meaning of this Greek word we realize that our forefathers, the Hebrews enslaved in Mitsrayim, didn’t actually make an exodus from the land of their bondage. They didn’t make a voluntary decision to leave and then march defiantly out of the land.Sh’mot 14.8 The truth is, they had to be ordered out of the land and that brings us to the title of this week’s par’sha.
In most English translations, Sh’mot 13.17 is worded in such a way that it sounds like Pharaoh allowed, or let, the people go. In other words, he voluntarily consented to letting them leave the land. The Hebrew word translated as let the people go is b’shalach which means he sent out. After ten plagues and the death of his own son, Pharaoh had had enough - he wanted the Hebrews out of his land so badly that he was willing to let a mixed multitude of other people go with them. He sent them out of his land. As you can see, we didn’t exactly make an exodus is the strictest sense of the word. We did, however, leave as soon as Y’H’V’H told us to leave. It had taken four hundred and thirty years of affliction and slavery plus the plagues, but the Hebrews had had enough. They were ready to leave.
In the opening verse we learn that Elohim did not lead this mixed multitude of Hebrews and gentiles by way of the land of the Philistines because of the fighting that was in the land. Fighting is from the Hebrew word mil’cha’mah מִלְחָמָ֖ה that means battle. It is from the shoresh לחם that means to struggle for existence. Elohim knew that if they witnessed the wars and/or battles going on in the land the people might become so discouraged that they would return to Mitsrayim. So He lead them along a different route, one that brought them to Pi Hachiroth, which was between Migdol and the sea, opposite Ba’al Tsephon. Pi Hachiroth is the place where one of the most talked about battles of history took place. It was a battle in which the Sea of Reeds parted and Pharaoh, six hundred of his choice chariots, along with the rest of his chariots and officers, were all killed. And yet, Elohim had led them along this path so that the Hebrews and the mixed multitude would not see all the battles going on in the land of the Philistines and return to Mitsrayim, but they did witness a mighty battle. Nor would this be the last battle Yisra’el would witness.
As the congregation of the children of Yisra’el camped at Rephidim they discovered there was no water to drink. When they complained about their thirst, Y’H’V”H told Mosheh to take the staff he used to strike the Nile and go to Horev. When he arrived at the mountain he was to strike the Rock that was there and water would come out of the Rock.
As the rest of the congregation made their way to Horev they were attacked by an unusual group of people called the Amaleqites. I say they are unusual because as one of my instructors pointed out, Amalek never lived in a specific land. The Amaleqites were a nomadic tribe that seemed to roam the desert looking for easy prey. Bil’am described them as first among the nationsB’midbar 24.20, testifying to their antiquity.
Something else that is interesting is that when the Tanakh mentions the gods of other nations, such as Aram, Tzidon, Edom, Moav, Amon and the Philistines, there is never a mention of the god of the Amaleqites.Shoftim 10.6 Who were they and what god or gods did they serve? It seemed they lived to prey on weaker, more vulnerable groups of people - and so they attacked the children of Yisra’el and one of their weakest points.
While the Amaleqites remain shrouded in somewhat of a mystery, their attack does not. Their attack introduces a lesson we must explore in both a physical and spiritual sense.
The Hebrews escaped the land of their bondage, but this wasn’t the end of the attacks against them. In short order, they were attacked by the Mitsrites and then the Amaleqites. The same is true for us in a spiritual sense. When we choose to leave the bondage of sin and follow the Messiah it doesn’t mean the end of attacks against us. Our adversary will pursue us, hoping to bring us back into bondage.
In retrospect, we see that these physical attacks against the Hebrews and the mixed multitude were a foreshadowing of the persecution the Messiah warned would come upon those who chose to come out of the world and follow Him.
He warned that the day would come when we would be put out of the congregations and those killing us would think they were doing Elohim a service.Yn.16.2
He warned the days were coming when we would be lead away and delivered up, but not to be concerned with what we were to say.Marqos 13.11
He warned there would be a time when we would be persecuted and insulted because of our testimony regarding Him as our Messiah.Matt. 5.11
He told us, Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they shall persecute you too. If they have guarded My Word, they would guard yours too.’Yn. 15.20
The Messiah told us, Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.Matt.10.34 Then He quoted the Tanakh; a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies are those of his own household.Matt.10.35-36
When we choose to come out of the world - a world that many of us were raised in - to follow the Messiah and guard the commandments of Elohim, we can expect battles and remember, the shoresh of battles means to struggle for existence. Our struggle is to exist as the people of Yisra’el, the remnant of His Chosen People. The world is not pleased with our choice and neither is our adversary. We can expect attacks and persecution and sadly, sometimes those attacks will come from our own families.
But this week’s par’sha also reveals more struggles we will have to overcome, but these don’t come from external sources. These battles are internal ones - spiritual ones if you will.
After crossing the Sea of Reeds and watching the earth swallow the bodies of the Mitsrites, the children of Yisra’el sang what we know today as the Song of the Sea. At the conclusion of their song Y’H’V’H told them, If you diligently obey the Voice of Y’H’V’H your Elohim and do what is right in His eyes, and shall listen to His commands and shall guard all His laws, I shall bring on you none of the diseases I brought on the Mitsrites, for I am Y’H’V’H who heals you.Sh’mot 15.26 Here is His promise: if we walk in obedience to Him, He will not put any of the diseases of the Mitsrites on us. Ever wonder what some of the diseases were that they suffered from. The list includes:
illness caused by bites of scorpions or serpents:
diseases affecting internal organs, such as kidney stones
parasitic diseases: guinea-worm, roundworm, tapeworm
He promises to never put any of these diseases on us if we diligently obey the Voice of Y’H’V’H your Elohim and do what is right in His eyes, and shall listen to His commands and shall guard all His laws.
But His promise goes even deeper. He also tells us He is Y’H’V’H who heals us.
When the children of Yisra’el arrived in the Wilderness of Sin, they grumbled against Mosheh and Aharon because there was nothing to eat. They reminisced about the pots of meat and bread they had eaten in Mitsrayim. Hearing their complaints, Y’H’V’H told Mosheh, See, I am raining bread from the heavens for you. And the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, in order to try them, whether they walk in My Torah or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.Sh’mot 16.1-5 Would Yisra’el obey Y’H’V’H’s command to honor the Sabbath?
As we learn in Sh’mot 16.27, that no, not everyone obeyed Him. Y’H’V’H told Mosheh, How long do you refuse to guard My commands and My Torot? See, because Y’H’V’H has given you the Sabbath, therefore He is giving you bread for two days on the sixth day. Let each one of stay in his place, do not let anyone go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.16.28-30
Once again, unfortunately, some have taken this passage out of context and teach that we are not allowed to leave our homes on the Sabbath. If this were the case, then the Messiah violated this commandment on a regular basis.
Mattityahu 12.1: At that time Y’hoshua went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. And His taught ones were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain, to eat.
Mattityahu 12.10: And having left there (the grain fields), He went into their congregation.
Marqos 1.21: And they went into Kephar Nachum, and immediately on the Sabbath He went into the congregation and taught.
Luqas 4.16: And He came to Natsareth, where He had been brought up. And according to His practice, He went into the congregation on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
I mention these verses to help establish the context of the passage in Sh’mot 16.29. In this passage Yisra’el was forbidden to go out of their homes in order to try to gather manna, which wasn’t even there. It was not a commandment to stay in our homes on the Sabbath.
One of the lessons we should glean from Par’sha B’shalach is that when we make the decision to come out of the world and follow the Messiah, we should expect trials, troubles, times of persecution as well as times of refreshing and blessing. Following Messiah Y’hoshua is not all trials and troubles, but in regards to trials and tests we must realize they will come from at least two different sources.
The first is external. Our adversary, ha’satan, will attempt to dissuade our choice to follow Messiah and live the Torah. He will attack and he will use whatever he can; other people, co-workers, false religious leaders, even family and friends. He can also use wars and rumors of wars, as this nation has witnessed over the last two hundred years of its existence and Yisrael has witnessed over the last four thousand years.
Another way we are tested is when we are faced with the decision to obey Y’H’V’H’s commandments or not. These are internal battles. In some ways, the Sabbath is one of the biggest internal tests Y’H’V’H places before us. Will we obey Him and guard the Sabbath day, or will we give into people, co-workers, false religious leaders, even family and friends? Following Messiah and guarding the Torah requires we make personal decisions regarding His Word every day. Will we follow Him or not?
Coming out of the world is not an easy task. In fact, it is much harder to come out of the world than it was to turn and go into the world, but coming out of the world is not an option for those desiring to walk in covenant withY’H’V’H. Coming out of the world means we must battle an internal battle as well: constant day-to-day decisions to follow Messiah and guard the commandments of Torah.
One question you have to answer for yourself is, are these battles worth it? To help you formulate your answer, let me leave you with this: consider the alternative of not coming out of the world. The book Ethics of our Fathers contains this bit of advice: Be as scrupulous in performing a ‘minor’ mitzvah as in a ‘major’ one, for you do not know the reward given for the respective mitzvot. Calculate the cost of a mitzvah (commandment) against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its cost.
One last thought: when we come out of this world, Whose world do we step into?
13 Sh’vat 5776
23 January 2016
Trials test our faith, blessings test our love.
Rabbi Yose says; (a) Let your fellow’s money be as dear to you as your own,(b) apply yourself to study Torah, for it is not yours by inheritance; and (c) let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven. - Pirkei Avot 2.17