The Israelites are free, and instead of taking the quickest route to Canaan, God has Moses lead them away from that route and places them between the Red Sea and the desert.
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Pharaoh, after having had time to reconsider, sends his entire army after the slaves. The people become afraid and cry to God while accusing Moses of bringing them into the desert to die. Moses calls out to God, who tells him to stop being afraid. God opens the Red Sea so that the Israelites can walk through the sea on dry ground, while the Egyptian army is held back by a pillar of fire.
After Israel was mostly through, the fire disappeared, allowing the chariots to go after the people. God caused the wheels to get stuck in the muddy ocean bed, and when Israel was through and the army in the midst of the sea, God closed the waters on them and the entire army of the Pharaoh was drowned.
The people came to a place called Marah (bitter) where the water was not potable, but God had Moses throw a certain tree into the water, and then it was safe. Next, after two months or so, the people complained about the lack of bread and meat and said they should never have left Egypt (this becomes the standard kvetch for them throughout their journey). God tells Moses that the people will have meat and that he will provide them bread, as well, and he sends manna and has millions of quails land, literally, at their feet.
Immediately, the people rebel against God’s commands, taking more manna than they needed (which turned to worms the next morning) and gathering on the Shabbat.
The people travel on, coming to a place where there was no water, and again they complain. God tells Moses to take the Elders and his rod, with which he will strike a rock and water will flow from that rock. Moses, in his anger, asks the Elders, “Do you expect me to bring water from this rock?” He then strikes the rock twice, after which water comes out.
But God is angry with Moses for not giving God the credit for the water, and this one sin is enough to prevent Moses, despite all he does for the 40 years he leads the people, from entering the Land.
This parashah ends with the battle against Amalek, who came out and attacked the weak and defenseless Israelites who were at the rear of the marchers. In this battle, Hur and Aaron held up Moses’ arms, for when his arms were upheld, the Israelites prevailed, but when his arms got tired and he dropped them, the Amalekites prevailed. After they are defeated by Israel, God states that he will blot out the remembrance of Amalek.
Before I talk about this parashah, I would like to share some interesting information about Amalek and the Torah. God says he will blot out the remembrance of Amalek, which happens in Deuteronomy 25:19, and to honor that mitzvah, when the Sofer (the scribe who writes the Torah) is testing the ink or the quill pen, he writes “Amalek” down on a piece of parchment and then crosses it out several times to perform the very thing God said would happen, namely that the name of Amalek will be blotted out.
What I find interesting every time I read this part of the Torah is that when the army of the Egyptians comes out to the Israelites, they immediately assume it is to kill them. Why would they think that?
The Pharaoh didn’t want to let them go because they were serving as slaves- if there were no Israelites, then the Egyptians would have to do all that work. And, if he killed them all, then the Egyptians would have to do all that work. The Israelites were essential to the Egyptian economy, especially now that Egypt’s economy has suffered destruction. So, if anything, Pharaoh wanted to recapture the people, not kill them, but the people all cried to Moses that it would have been better for them to die in Egypt.
This makes no sense until we consider the one most important condition of these people- they were faithless. Hundreds of years of slavery created a slave mindset in all of them, and as such, they were unsure of themselves and had no faith in God. Even after the plagues, their faith was so weak that with each new challenge, they immediately felt lost and doomed.
The sad thing is that nothing has changed in the 3500 years or so since then. And not just with Jews, but with all people.
I’ll bet that when you read Facebook posts, or Tweets, or whatever, you see so many people who only see the worst possible solution. And not just with non-Believers, but within the body of Messiah, as well. Too often people only see the dark, the doom, the worst-case scenario, and those people are the ones who are, not surprisingly, also the most depressed, fearful, and sad.
I believe there is so much anger, fear, and depression in society today because we have kicked God out of his rightful position as king and savior. We reject his authority as creator, we remove prayer from school, we kiss-up to the godless who want to destroy Israel so that we don’t offend them, and we not only condone, but support sinfulness within the society, from gender-related issues to the murder of children as they are ready to leave the womb.
Instead of a society that honors God and his Messiah, we are a society that sacrifices to Molech (abortion) and emulates Sodom and Gomorrah.
Our government, schools, and (consequently) our society has rejected God and he will, as he has done throughout history, eventually reject us. In truth, I believe God has already rejected the United States, and we can’t expect any more blessings from him.
Now, don’t accuse me of being faithless, because I am not seeing a worst-case scenario: I am making a judgment based on how we have treated God and what has happened throughout history, which we read in the Bible. When God is rejected he waits, patiently, for those rejecting him to repent, but at some point, only God knows when (no pun intended), he decides the waiting period is over and it is time for judgment. I believe that given the state of things in America right now, we are entering into the judgment we deserve.
We have gone out of our way to be politically correct by not offending people who are, by their actions, themselves an offense to God, so when we side with those who offend God, well…what do you expect to happen?
The narrative of the Israelites traveling through the desert is a perfect lesson for any society, and that lesson is when you are faithless, you will never be happy. The books of the Prophets, Chronicles, and Kings demonstrate that when we are faithful and show that faith through repentance and obedience (James says faith without works is dead), then we are blessed and the people are secure. But, when we are faithless and show that faithlessness through disobedience, we become mired down with problems that we cannot solve, become subject to others, and live in fear.
There is little that we can do to change an entire society, although one person can make a difference- what about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro, to name a few. If you ask me, the reason they were so influential was that they used the fear and faithlessness of the people to create a new god for them, one that did what they wanted it to do instead of the One who tells us what we should do for him.
This is one of the biggest lies that modern religion tells its followers: “God will do so much for you because he loves you, just as you are.”
God WILL do so much for you, and God DOES love you, just as you are, but there are two sides to the covenants he made with us, and the other side is that God will do these things AFTER we demonstrate our faith in him through obedience.
Salvation is free for the asking, but blessings have to be earned, and (for the record) the gift of salvation won’t be taken away from you, but you can throw it away.
Work on having faith, even in the darkest places, and temper faith with a bit of reality. God is faithful, one thousand percent, but that faithfulness means not only can we count on him for salvation, but we can also count on him for judgment and punishment for our sins. Remember this lesson from the Bible: we will be forgiven on a spiritual plane, but sin always has consequences in the physical world.
Faith in God doesn’t prevent tsouris in life, it helps us to persevere through that tsouris fearlessly, without losing our joy.
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That’s it for now: L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!