Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Beshalach - 5775

My friends,

Last week we read how on that night of Passover when the last plague came and the first born in every Egyptian household died, Pharaoh and the Egyptians insisted that the Children of Israel leave that same day. So, after hundreds of years, freedom had finally come to the slaves and they were on their way to freedom and the Promised Land. But there was one more threat to the liberty they had just gained.

When Pharaoh and his people realized that their slaves were not coming back, they organized an army and pursued the Israelites. They caught them by the Red Sea with no place to go.

We all know the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea. The waters parted and the Israelites walked into the sea on dry land.

There is a beautiful song included in this Parasha. When Moses and the Israelites had crossed the sea and saw the Egyptian army drowning in the sea and realized that they were finally freed from their masters, "Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to G-d." (Exodus 15:1)

The Midrash comments that G-d was very pleased with this song and said: From the day of creation no one ever offered a song to G-d, until this event of the Crossing of the Red Sea. Adam was given a mate and placed in the garden of Eden and never sang a song to G-d. Noah was saved from the flood and never sang a song to G-d. Abraham was delivered from the furnace of Ur and prevailed in the war when he rescued his nephew Lot and did not sing a song to G-d. Isaac was spared on the altar from the knife, Jacob was saved from his brother Esau and from his father-in-law Laban who wished him harm, and neither Isaac nor Jacob sand a song to G-d.

Granted, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob thanked and praised G-d for their good fortune, but they never reached the level of bursting into a song. Only at the Crossing of the Sea do we have what became known as Shirat Hayam, The Song by the Sea, where Moses led the men and Miriam led the women in a song of joy and exultation to G-d.

We know that this moment of joy and singing is not going to last, because immediately after they leave the area, they will start complaining because of the lack of food and water. But for the moment G-d was pleased with their song. G-d enjoyed the moment.

I believe there is an important message for us. Do not hesitate to break into a song of gratitude for the many acts of kindness that we experience. G-d is pleased when we are grateful and joyful for the blessings that come our way. It is another way of saying: Life is not perfect, but count your blessings and show joy and gratitude to G-d for what we have.

May you be blessed with countless opportunities that will cause you to break into songs of joy and gratitude.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram