The Israelites are in the desert, free from Egyptian slavery. However, now the Egyptians (mainly Pharaoh) have realized what they did, and are regretting their letting the Israelites go. So Pharaoh gets all his chariots together and rides out. I don’t believe he wanted to kill them all, for what good would that do? He wanted to bring them back.
In any event, the Israelites thought he wanted to kill them all, and they were stuck: the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s chariots on the other. And now we see the salvation of the Lord, one of the most well-known stories of the bible, come to pass. God miraculously keeps the army at bay with the pillar of cloud and fire, while he lights the way for the Israelites to walk through the now separated waters of the sea. Pharaoh is allowed to follow as the Israelites are just getting through, and God leaves them stranded in the midst of the waters, which He then brings back down upon them, totally destroying the army of Pharaoh.
The rest of this parashah is like an outline of how God provided for the people all through their desert travels, against their kvetching and whining: He gave them meat, he gave them bread, He gave them water. When they came to water that was not safe, He made it safe. When they were attacked, He fought for them.
This small parashah tells us that everything we need, God provides for us. And more than that, it demonstrates God’s love for His children, even in the wake of their distrust. Despite seeing the most marvelous and unbelievable miracles anyone could ever see, when some problem arose the people immediately complained and totally forgot the wondrous and miraculous things that God had done so far that proved He could provide. It’s like saying, “OK. You’ve destroyed Egypt, you’ve split the sea, you provided bread in the morning and meat at night, you’ve brought forth water from the rock, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME TODAY?”
Oy! What a bunch of nudniks!
It’s an easy lesson to learn today, easily understood, and almost impossible for us to remember when some “disaster” befalls us: God is able. God is able to provide our needs: God is able to rescue us: God is able to protect us: God is able to keep His promises: God is able!!
So when you have tsouris, when you feel let down by others, when you doubt that God is with you, get real! Get your head back on straight and remember what God has done for you in your life so far. Really- if you are that weak in faith and trust that one little thing goes wrong and you think God has abandoned you, you don’t deserve His blessings!
Lucky for you, and for me, too, that God is more forgiving and compassionate to us than we are to each other. I truly believe, and I tell Him, that if I lived a thousand years and never received another blessing, I have already received more than I could ever deserve. It’s true, and that is why I keep getting blessed: not because I deserve it (although when we obey God and His Torah, He does bless us) but because God is a God who loves to bless His children. He is a God who protects us, He is a God who loves us enough to chide and punish us when what we do is dangerous to our salvation, and He is a God who will deliver on His promises.
The problem is not with God, it is with us: He keeps covenant, we break it. He deserves worship and honor, we deserve death. He protects and provides, we don’t appreciate it. He is faithful, we are not.
The good news is we can change, and when we allow the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to lead us we do change. Little by little, step by step, we make progress spiritually. And it shows in our daily activities. We are all going though the desert, and we all look forward to the Promised Land at the end of our journey. Just like the Israelites, when we allow God to lead us and follow His path, we will be protected, provided for, and will eventually arrive at our (eternal) land of milk and honey.
Don’t kvetch, don’t think the grass is greener on the other side (trust me, it isn’t), and don’t hold on to the past. When all looked lost with the sea ahead of them and death behind them, God asked Moses (Exodus 14:15), “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” I believe God was telling Moses (as well as you and me) to walk in faith and watch what happens. God is a God of action, not sitting around and waiting. When we walk in faith, even into the sea, or into the burning furnace, God will provide and protect. We need to move, we need to demonstrate our faithfulness; and when we do, God will be there.
God is able.