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Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black- Parshat Beshalach



In this week’s Torah portion of Beshalach, the Jewish people find themselves at a roadblock–the Sea of Reeds are ahead of them and the Egyptian army is pursuing them from behind.

Miraculously the sea splits and the Jewish people cross over to dry land, as the Egyptians drown in the sea. The Jewish people burst into song, expressing their praise and appreciation to Hashem. It is interesting that the medium used to express their utter exaltation is not prayer but a song.

There are moments in life when we are overwhelmed with emotion and the feelings are so hard to express in words. A song is a mode of unique expression that helps us to release intense emotion and joy, coming as it does from the depths of our souls.

Our sages teach us that no one, up to this point in history, had sung a song like the Jewish people at the Sea of Reeds. Of course, song had long been a medium of expression. So what exactly do our sages mean by this? The sages appear to be commenting on the unique psychological mindset of the Jewish people after suffering for hundreds of years.

The Jewish people broke into song with the realization that everything that they had gone through up to this point was all for the good. They were experiencing that “aha moment.” All the pain and the challenges that they went through were to get them to this point—it all made sense; it was purposeful. They had clarity and understood that Hashem was with them the entire time and had orchestrated events for their own benefit. He was the G-d of history and the present moment.

That is what emunah – faith is all about. It is the knowledge that even though we don’t know understand why things have happened precisely as they have or what the future will hold, it is all for our good. We have belief that we are being guided in the best way possible- both in the bad times and the good.

Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l asked, “Why didn’t the Jewish people sing when they were immediately freed from Egypt?” Why did they wait until the splitting of the sea to break out into song?

The Jewish people in Egypt witnessed great miracles, but yet were not changed or transformed by them. It was only when they witnessed the splitting of the sea were they completely transformed and moved. While both events were miracles that transcended nature, there was an essential difference. During the miracles in Egypt, the Jewish people were mere bystander, not participants. At the sea, they not only participated, they initiated the miracle. Their willingness to risk their lives by walking into the deep waters helped bring about the miracle.

There are two types of inspiration. We can be inspired from above or we can be inspired from below. Until the Jewish people reached the sea, all the inspiration came from above. At the sea, it was the Jewish people that provided the inspiration–an inspiration that came from below as they courageously marched into the sea.  

Many of us wait for inspiration to fall down from the sky. We desperately want to be inspired. But where will it come from? The lesson of the parsha is that we must create our inspiration. We must be proactive and pursue it; we have to make it personal and own it.

Our lives are all about the song we compose. What is your song?

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