This week marks the completion of eight years of Derech Tsofeh. Thanks to our readers and guest writers.
This week, Parasha Beshalach deals with a recurrent theme in the Torah – water.
Recall a few weeks ago, when we learned Pharaoh tried to control the strength of the Israelites, who he feared were growing too numerous, by having the baby boys drowned. To save her son, Jocheved placed Moses in a little ark made of reeds and pushed him out onto the Nile River, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace. The river meant to be a place of harm for Jewish boys became a place of refuge for the greatest of Jewish boys.
The tables are turned in this week’s parasha. The shortest route from Egypt to Canaan goes along the land of Philistines. God knows the Philistines are likely to attack the Israelites, and directs Moses to enter the Wilderness (Midbar) toward the Sea of Reeds. The Egyptians, having forgotten God’s miracles for the Israelites in the form of the Ten Plagues, decide they want their former slaves back, and begin pursuing them.
Now the Israelites are caught between the sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them. Moses begins praying, but a prince of Judah, Nachshon ben Aminadav (whose many-times great grandson will be King David) realizes he must believe that God will help them, and starts walking into the sea. When it rises up on his neck, the sea parts. The Jews begin walking safely along the sea bed, with walls of water on each side. The Egyptians follow. When the Israelites reach the other shore, the sea comes back together, and drowns the Egyptians, leaving only Pharaoh.
So water – which Pharaoh wanted to use to destroy the Jewish people – saved them and destroyed Pharaoh’s army.
This reminds me of a lesson I encounter many times each week – the same thing can be used for good or ill.
I lived this lesson again today. A friend sent me a strong message; it hurt my feelings. Instead of sensing something must be bothering my friend for him to write to me this way, I replied with a strong message of my own. He wrote again, this time telling me things that made me understand what he was feeling. I felt bad for having been so quick to criticize him, and apologized. He wrote back and apologized for saying something hurtful, and we exchanged more messages in a more sympathetic tone.
The words we used were not well-considered. Each of us could have used words that expressed how we felt without making the other feel badly. The words could have been used for good or ill, just as the water was used in the parasha. Be Prepared to understand why someone acts or speaks as they do, and be Kind and Courteous with a response that brings out understanding instead of conflict.