Parashas Beshallach

This week’s parashah relates the events that took place after Pharaoh sent the Jewish People out of Egypt – including his regret over having done so, his decision to chase after them, and the ensuing miraculous deliverance at the Sea of Reeds. The Midrash connects the sending out of the Jewish People with the following verse (Shir HaShirim 4:13): “Your most arid ones are like a pomegranate orchard laden with luscious fruit” (the word shelachaiyich, meaning “your arid places,” is related to the word shalach, meaning “sent out”). The Midrash teaches as follows (Shemos Rabbah 20:5, slightly paraphrased):
We can liken this episode to the following story. A man had a field with a pile of stones in the middle of it, and he sold this field to someone else. The buyer removed the pile of stones, and found beneath it a flowing spring. He planted grapevines … and pomegranate trees, … and whoever passed by it would praise it. The one who sold it saw it filled with everything good, and said: “Woe to me for selling this precious field, and letting it pass out of my hands!” Similarly, the Jewish People in Egypt were like a pile of stones, as it is written (Shir HaShirim 4:12): “A locked garden is she, my sister the bride, a blocked stream, a plugged-up spring” (the word gal for “stream” also means “pile”). But when they left, they became like a pomegranate orchard, as it is written: “Your most arid ones are like a pomegranate orchard laden with luscious fruit.” [The Midrash goes on to elaborate.]
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. The purpose of the Jewish People’s experience in Egypt to prepare them to receive the Torah. First, they were humbled through slavery. They then witnessed Hashem’s dominion over of the world, and His kind concern for them as His special nation, through the great wonders He wrought in Egypt – smiting the Egyptians with fierce plagues while miraculously shielding them from all harm. The staggering display of Divine power that they saw implanted within their hearts a firm awareness of Hashem’s existence and ominpotence. But so long as the Jewish People were still in Egypt, the strong inner faith they had acquired was hidden from view, shrouded by the pall of defilement with which Egypt was pervaded. They were like a person who had an operation that cured him of a grave eye impairment, but could not yet see because he was still in a dark room. The Jewish People had been cured of their spiritual impairement, but they did not yet have the opportunity to exercise their new spiritual prowess; they were still in the darkness of the Egyptian exile and had not yet received their allotment of Torah and mitzvos. But once the Jewish People escaped the pall of exile, removed their filthy garments, so to speak, and came under the guidance of Hashem’s word, the spiritual power they had stored up deep within came to the fore. They quickly flourished in all areas of true wisdom. And, thus, they were like a spring that was freed from a stifling pile of stones – once set free, they gushed forth with spiritual achievements.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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