Parshat Beshalach

(Numbers 13:17–17:16)

(Haftara: Judges 4:4-5:31)

  1. [13:17] “God did not lead them by the way of the Philistines, because it was close, and God said, “Maybe they will regret leaving when they see war…”

Rashi comments: “It’s close, and it’s easy to go back to Egypt…” The Ramban (R. Moshe ben Nachman 1194-1270, Spain) disagrees with Rashi. He says that according to Rashi, the pasuk should say, “…because God said, ‘…because it was close, maybe they will regret’….”. Rather, the Ramban says that the pasuk really means, “God did not lead them by the way of the Philistines which is faster and closer…”. Which reading of the pasuk sounds more correct to you?

  1. 2. [14:21] “…God sent a strong east wind the whole night…” God could have split the sea in one instant. Why did God want to do it in this more natural way?
  1. [14:28] The midrash tells us that when the Egyptian soldiers were drowning, the angels were singing joyfully. God told them to stop because “my creations are drowning”. Why did God allow the Israelites to sing joyfully?
  1. [17:16] “…God makes war with Amalek in every generation”. Amalek came especially from far away to make war, and they attacked the weakest of the Israelites. What does Amalek represent to us that would make God “make war with Amalek in every generation”?
  1. [Haftara] The midrash says that the redemption from Egypt was because of the merits of the Israelite women. In the haftara, we hear about Devorah the prophet, and Yael’s killing of the enemy general, Sisera. If so, why don’t women have more of a leadership role among the Israelites in the desert and afterwards?


[13:17] “God did not lead them by the way of the Philistines, even though it was close…”

God didn’t want the Israelites to have an easy time at the beginning, so that later they would be able to deal with difficult situations. The job of the Jewish people in the world would often be to confront difficulties and injustices, and correct them. So God wanted them to get used to this struggle from their beginnings as a free nation.

— based on Sfat Emet, R. Yehuda Arieh Leib Alter of Gur (1855-1905)

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker

And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

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