Shabbos Parashas Beshallach

This week’s parashah recounts the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. The Jews found themselves trapped, with the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind him, and they cried out to Hashem. And Hashem said to Moshe (Shemos 14:15): “Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Children of Yisrael, that they go forward.” The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 21:8): “Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe, ‘All the Jews have to do is just go forward.’” What did Hashem mean by this? And why did Hashem include the words “to Me”? The Maggid sets out to explain what Hashem meant.
The starting point is a basic rule: Hashem generally does not perform supernatural miracles for people in distress if there still remain natural steps that they can take to deal with their situation. Only when all natural means have been completely exhausted does Hashem step in and perform a miracle. Accordingly, a person is obligated to make a steadfast effort to continue employing natural means as long as such means are still available. The Gemara in Berachos 32b lists four areas that need bolstering. One of these areas is prayer, regarding which it is written (Tehillim 27:14): “Hope to Hashem; strengthen yourself and let your heart take courage, and hope to Hashem.” Hashem does not need to make any preparations to rescue someone; He can bring salvation in an instant. So it is incumbent on a person to press on with his efforts and his prayers up to the very last moment.
The Maggid introduces a parable to bring out the message. A rich man had an only son, whom he cared for consummately. The father decided he should accustom his son to doing business so that later he would be able to support himself and his family. The father said to his son: “Go out each week and do business until you make $1,000. Bring the $1,000 to me at the end of the week and I’ll give you another $4,000, so that you’ll have $5,000. But be aware that until you bring me the $1,000 that you made, I won’t give you a thing.” This arrangement operated for several weeks. One week the son got together $999 and he figured it wasn’t worth making an effort to gain an additional $1, so he just went to his father with the money he had and asked his father to give him the sum needed to reach $5,000. The father told the son to count the money he had brought, and the son counted out $999. The father told him: “You think that the missing $1 is too minor to be of any importance, and it should not hold me back from giving you an additional $4,000 as usual. But you should know that the $1 is more significant than the $4,000. For me, the $4,000 is minor, because I have the money at hand. You should have made every effort possible to get the remaining $1. The $1 was important, for you needed to have it in order to get the $4,000.”
The parallel is as follows. The Jews had traveled a considerable distance to arrive at the shore of the sea. They did not want to go on further until Hashem split the sea. But on account of the missing additional step, Hashem held back from performing the miracle. It is as we explained above – Hashem does not perform a miracle a second earlier than necessary. The Jews felt, upon arriving at the shore of the sea, that they had done everything in their power and it was now time for Hashem to step in and perform a miracle to save them. When they saw the sea remaining in its usual state, they cried out to Hashem to perform the miracle. But in truth there was more they could do: They could continue going forward a few more steps until the water reached up to their noses. We might think that the few additional steps’ distance was too minor to hold back the miracle. But Hashem exclaimed: “Why are you crying out to Me?” He was saying: “Why are you crying out for Me to do My part? My doing a miracle is minor. Your taking a few more steps is important, because this is what is needed to bring on the miracle. All you have to do is just go forward.” The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 21:8 expounds further, describing Hashem saying to Moshe: “You are under My dominion, and the sea is under My dominion, and I have already made you a superintendent over it.” All that was needed was for the Jews to take those few additional steps.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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