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Parshah Beshalach - Using Weapons, Yes or No?

January 29-4, 2023 Exodus 13:17-17:16

A Part of the Torah Portion of this week:

Soon after allowing the children of Israel to depart from Egypt, Pharaoh chases after them to force their return, and the Israelites find themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s armies and the sea. G‑d tells Moses to raise his staff over the water; the sea splits to allow the Israelites to pass through, and then closes over the pursuing Egyptians. Moses and the children of Israel sing a song of praise and gratitude to G‑d.

For Noahides

וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

"So instead, G-d led the people via the desert road toward the other side of the Sea of Reeds, i.e., northward from Sukot, along the west bank of the sea, and then southward, along the east bank of the sea, to Eitam, which is at the edge of the desert The Israelites were armed when they went up from Egypt."

Weapons a Practical and Psychological Benefit

When the Jewish people left the land of Egypt - sent away by Pharaoh - they took a lot with them, food, animals, gold, silver and also weapons. This served a practical purpose - they would need the weapons when they would conquer their land.

It also served a psychological benefit - they could leave Egypt with their heads held high and not as fugitive slaves. It increased their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Also, the weapons were an aid to avoid giving up and returning to Egypt at the slightest setback.

Prepare or Trust

But were the weapons really necessary, or should they have left the weapons in Egypt and put their trust fully in HaShem. This was pretty much logical after all the miracles the nation had witnessed.

אין סומכין על הנס

one musn't rely on miracles

Is an important principle. Everything is in the hands of HaShem. You could say if I am sick and need to get well, so He will do it through a miracle. But no, you then go to the doctor. You might say a good job is due to me, I'll get it. But no, you will really have to apply for it yourself. If you want to unlearn a less pleasant trait in yourself, you will have to work on it concretely. By "arming" yourself with that which can help you not become angry, give tsadaka, etc., for example.

With these right weapons of prayer and Torastudy, you can start any challenge confidently, but also keep going and persevere when things don't quite work out for a while. With the confidence that HaShem will fight with you where you cannot succeed on your own.

In short, we do not test HaShem or ask for miracles, but we do trust in Him whole hearted.

לֹ֣א תְנַסּ֔וּ אֶת-יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר נִסִּיתֶ֖ם בַּמַּסָּֽה׃

Do not test your G-d

Deutr. 6:16

Prepare in Trust

So we see many examples in Tenach of people who prepared for a coming situation.

Think of Jacob, he prepared for his meeting with his brother Esau.

Think of Joseph, he prepared the land for famine and did not expect HaShem to help his family by a miracle.

We also see it with Moses. When the people's questions became too much for him, he did not ask for a miracle from HaShem to help him, but took the practical advice of his father-in-law. (Exodus 18:18)

In short as long as we are not yet living in the time of Redemption and we can still be tested by our evil inclination, we need to arm ourselves with prayer and Torah, be practical. But we have complete trust in HaShem that He will help us where we cannot do it alone, but in His time and in His way.

No Weapens Needed

In the time of Redemption, we no longer need to arm ourselves in this way. For the knowledge of HaShem will be like the waters covering the ocean.

כִּֽי־מָלְאָ֣ה הָאָ֗רֶץ דֵּעָה֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה כַּמַּ֖יִם לַיָּ֥ם מְכַסִּֽים׃

For the earth will be as filled with knowledge of HaShem as water covering the seabed

Isaiah 11:9

Living according to His will, will be in that time so obviously logical that we no longer pay attention to the Evil Inclination

And also the Nation of Israel will no longer need to arm itself against physical warring nations, for the nations will melt down their weapons into ploughs.

וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבֹתֵיהֶ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֹֽתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹֽא־יִשְׂא֞וּ גּ֤וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּן ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה׃

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning knives; nation will not lift sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore.

Micah 4:3

Thus we see that the Exodus from Egypt was the beginning of Redemption which will eventually lead to full Redemption. As we feed on Torah and connect more and more with HaShem and our will merges with His, we will need to arm ourselves less and less until the time comes when there is peace in our hearts, through which there will also be peace in the world.

Sources: Chabad: Beshalach in a Nutshell, Kehot Chumash: Beshalach, With thanks to rabbi T. Burton


Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the website. She contributes for the admin of the website in English and Dutch. She teaches Hebrew to beginners and intermediate students at the Academy.

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