Beshalach -- Exodus 13:17-17:16

CoverDesign3_PartingSeaAmerican music legend Jerome John “Jerry” Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995), best known for his lead guitar work, singing, and songwriting with the Grateful Dead, remarked in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview:

Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

So how does a reasonable person react when facing “the lesser of two evils” or “an offer you can’t refuse”?

This week, we turn to the Israelites who are feeling quite constricted, trapped as they are “between a rock and a hard place” — between Pharaoh’s armies rapidly approaching from behind and the ominous Reed Sea ahead of them. How will they respond to being “between the devil and the deep blue sea”?

Moses receives the divine command to raise his staff over the water so that the waters of the sea split, relieving the Israelites of their predicament by allowing them safe passage. This opening quickly turns into a dead end for the Egyptian armies pursuing them. Moses, Miriam, and the Children of Israel then erupt into redemption songs.

Now in the desert, the challenges continue to mount. The Israelites suffer from thirst and hunger, and complain to their new leaders, Moses and Aaron. Their thirst is slaked when the bitter waters of Marah are sweetened. Moses also brings forth water from a rock by striking it with his staff, and causes manna to rain down each morning along with quails each evening. The Israelites gather a double portion of manna on Fridays, since none will fall from the sky on the divinely decreed day of rest known as the Sabbath. Aaron even jars a morsel of manna as testimony for future generations.

The trials continue as the Israelites are attacked by the tribe of Amalek, who is ultimately defeated by Moses and Joshua. It is noteworthy that Moses uses the spiritual power of prayer, whereas Joshua uses the political power of armed forces.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Image credit: CBS will soon launch a new Shabbat pamphlet that will feature original cover art inspired by mid-20th century graphic design. The artwork that accompanies this post is an abstract representation of the parting of the Reed Sea. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.