Speaking of Exodus: Beshallah

Speaking of Exodus: Beshallah

Jan 29, 2021 By David G. Roskies | Commentary | Beshallah

My mother, Vilna-born, spoke a very idiomatic Yiddish. When she wanted to convey how delicious something was she would say: “ketsa-PIKH-is bi-DVASH.” Although I studied Sefer Shemot in seventh grade, in a Yiddish day school, it wasn’t until my first year as a member of Havurat Shalom, where we read, translated, and subjected the weekly parashah to open debate, that I was able to identify the source of this delicious expression: “The house of Israel named it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers in honey” (Exod. 16:31).

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Destiny in the Details

Destiny in the Details

Feb 7, 2020 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Beshallah

In life’s biggest moments, it is sometimes easy to lose track of the smallest details. I have been to more than one wedding where everything is beautifully set up, from the flowers to the catering to the band, but then when the couple being married reach the huppah, they realize that they had forgotten the kiddush cup for the Sheva Berakhot, or the pen for signing the ketubah.

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A Wall “To the Right of Them, and To the Left”

A Wall “To the Right of Them, and To the Left”

Jan 18, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Beshallah

For many years my favorite line in Parashat Beshallah—the section of Torah that I studied at age 11 while learning to chant with proper musical notation from the scroll—was the Israelites’ sarcastic complaint to Moses when they found themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s army advancing from behind them, and the sea blocking their way forward.

What? There weren’t enough graves in Egypt, so you took us out to die in the wilderness? (Exod. 14:11)

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Israel: Between Tears and Songs

Israel: Between Tears and Songs

Jan 26, 2018 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Beshallah

Beshallah holds special importance for me and my family—it was the parashah of the week of my son Zeke’s bris three years ago, and that of the week of my wedding to Yael two years before that. Under the huppah, my rabbi (and brother-in-law) Aaron Brusso referenced the Zohar’s likening of the parting of the Red Sea to a wedding for having weeping on one side of the event and singing on the other (Zohar 2:170b).

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Israel’s Departure

Israel’s Departure

Feb 10, 2017 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Beshallah

Rabbi Judah said to Rabbi Meir: one tribe said, “I will not be the first to go into the sea”; and another tribe said, “I will not be the first to go into the sea.” While they were standing there deliberating, Nahshon the son of Aminadav of the tribe of Judah sprang forward and was the first to go down into the sea. Because it was Nahshon who came forward, Judah obtained royal dominion in Israel: “The sea saw him and fled” (Psalm 114:3). (Mekhilta Derabbi Yishmael, Beshallah, Mas. Devayehi 5)

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Crossing the Sea Every Summer

Crossing the Sea Every Summer

Feb 10, 2017 By Jacob Cytryn | Commentary | Beshallah

As a camp director, Beshallah speaks to me in certain rather obvious ways. It is focused on the power of song—both the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18) and Deborah’s Song (Judges 5:1-31) in the haftarah—and camp is nothing if not filled with song and music. Experience, similarly, is central to the entire endeavor, especially as recounted in the Passover seder. And Beshallah also represents the birth of possibility, the beginning of an independent community. In other words, this week’s parashah encapsulates the basic work we in the camp business embark on every summer.

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Protective Paralysis

Protective Paralysis

Jan 15, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Beshallah

Have we become like Pharaoh in the midrash above: both an oppressive captor and a powerless captive of his own psychological blindness?

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Forging Faith: Persistent Human Effort Vs. Divine Miracles

Forging Faith: Persistent Human Effort Vs. Divine Miracles

Feb 3, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

The end of a story often illuminates its beginning.

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The Song at the Sea

The Song at the Sea

Jan 20, 2015 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Beshallah

The centerpiece of Parashat Beshallah is the Song at the Sea. The song gives this Shabbat on which it is read the name Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song. It is interesting to note that this is the first recorded instance in the Torah where praise of God is specifically sung rather than spoken. Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, the first graduate of JTS and the chief rabbi of the British Empire, wrote in his Torah commentary on Parashat Beshallah, “Whenever Israel has faith in God and in the Divine Mission of Moses, Israel sings” (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p. 270).

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Judaism and Linear History

Judaism and Linear History

Jan 22, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

Unlike most sabbaths of the year, this week’s bears a special name. It is called “Shabbat Shirah – the Sabbath of Song,” from “The Song at the Sea” which is recited to its own cantillation in this week’s parasha (Ex. 15:1-19). A specimen of archaic biblical poetry, the song recounts with gusto the deliverance of Israel, trapped between the Sea of Reeds and the Egyptian army, by yet another divine miracle. And thus in the middle of winter each year, the offspring of ancient Israel break forth in joyous song, as if the redemption had just occurred.

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