Parashas Beshallach – The Long Route Home

In the beginning of this week’s parashah, the Torah relates (Shemos 13:18): “So Hashem turned (vayaseiv) the people to the road of the wilderness, toward the Sea of Reeds.” The Sages link this verse to the law that even the poorest Jew must not begin eating on the Seder night until he leans (yeiseiv) (Shemos Rabbah 20:19). The association seems very far-flung. What is the connection?
The Maggid explains as follows. After 210 years of Egyptian enslavement, a large enough “critical mass” of Jews had spiritually matured to make it time for the Jewish People to leave. As the Midrash indicates (Shemos Rabbah 15:1), this is indicated by the following verses (Shir HaShirim 2:10–12): “Arise, My mate, My beautiful one, and go on your way. For, behold, the winter has passed …. The blossoms have appeared in the land.” The “blossoms” are the Jews who had spiritually matured. On account of this “critical mass” of righteous Jews, Hashem took the Jewish People out of Egypt.
Yet there remained a large segment of Jews who had not yet matured. In order to allow these Jews to mature, Hashem led the Jewish People to the Land of Israel via the long route through the wilderness, rather than via the short route through the land of the Philistines. In this way, Hashem ensured that every last Jew would reach the spiritual level needed to enter the holy Land of Israel.
The final redemption will follow the same pattern. This is what our Sages meant to teach us when they linked the Jewish People’s detour through the wilderness to the law that every Jew must lean on Seder night. As we begin the Haggadah, we declare: “Now we are slaves; next year may we be free men.” Our Sages wished to stress that every Jew is ensured a share in the great final redemption, just as it was when Hashem led the Jews from Egypt into the Land of Israel. They wished to prevent the Jews of humble rank from giving up hope, and concluding that the promise of redemption is directed only to the lofty, but not to them. Hence the Sages legislated that every Jew—even the poorest—must lean on Seder night, to show that every Jew is destined for freedom.

David Zucker, Site Administrator

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