Parshas Beshalach

If You Blink, You May Miss Seeing It!


“The people complained to Moshe saying, “What shall we drink?” He cried out to Hashem, and Hashem showed him a tree; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet” (Shmos 15:24-25)

My wife’s friend just finished sitting shiva for her mother. After her mother passed away, her body had to be driven from Cleveland for burial in New York, late Motzei Shabbos. In the middle of the drive, at about 2 o’clock in the morning, the driver needed to use the restroom. He stopped at a rest-stop. It was totally deserted of cars. The driver was in a quandry. On the one hand, he needed the restroom. On the other hand, there is a very important mitzvah to have someone watch over a dead body the entire time, until burial. The mitzvah is so important that the person watching-over the body is excused from doing other mitzvos that would take him away from this important mitzvah. Just as the driver was considering what to do, a car suddenly pulled-up behind his car. A religious Jew walked out of the car. A coincidence at 2 AM? I think not. The driver was on his way to Lakewood when his engine light went on. He didn’t want to complete the long drive without checking his engine, so he drove into the rest stop. He graciously agreed to watch-over the body while the other driver used the rest room. When the first driver returned, the other driver’s engine light was off. Both drivers continued-on their ways. Interestingly, the engine light of the second driver never went on again.  Clearly, Hashem arranged that the man driving to Lakewood should stop at that specific rest stop at the exact time that he was needed. Hashem’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye, at just the right time.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 3) says that Parshas Beshalach usually falls out around the time of Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees. Thus, there must be some parallel between the two. Rabbi Frand quotes the Ziv HaMinhagim who gives a parallel. Why do we celebrate the Rosh Hashanah for trees during the winter months when the trees are dormant rather than in the spring when the trees are in full bloom? The answer is that although the trees look dead, beneath the surface the sap is beginning to flow towards the branches. The beautiful leaves that will appear in the springtime are starting their growth in the dead of the winter. Celebrating the New Year for trees now, teaches us not to give up hope when things seem bleak. Salvation can come speedily.

In this week’s Parsha, the Jews had traveled in the desert for three days without finding water. When they arrived at Marah, they were very frustrated. They found water but it was undrinkable. Things appeared to be bleak. What could they drink? Hashem showed Moshe a certain tree and told Moshe to throw the tree into the water. The bitter water turned sweet and became drinkable. In an instant, Hashem changed a bleak situation into a positive one. Hashem’s salvation came in the blink of an eye.

The Talmud (Pesachim 116B) quotes Rabban Gamliel who explains that we eat matzah at the Pesach seder to commemorate the matzah that baked on the back of the Jews as they left Egypt. The Torah (Shmos 12:39) states further, that the Jewish People had to leave quickly and had not prepared food for the journey ahead.

The question is obvious. The Jewish People were about to go on a journey through the desert. Why didn’t they prepare food for the trip? How could they possibly leave without preparing provisions for the way?

There are several different answers to this question. The Torah has such depth that there are different ways of understanding it. Even when different commentaries have different approaches to answer a question, the answers are not mutually exclusive. They are all accurate.

Rashi says that this showed the Jews’ absolute faith in Hashem to provide them with their needs. Hashem rewarded them for this beautiful show of faith by making them holy to Hashem.

HaRav Naftoli Tzvi Yehudah Berlin zt”l (in sefer Ha’emek Davar) has a different explanation. He says that the Jews purposely did not gather provisions for a long journey to make the Egyptians think that they were only leaving for a short time, to serve Hashem, and would soon return.

The Da’as Zekainim says that they had no time to prepare provisions because the Egyptians were trying to rush them out. The Bekhor Shor says similarly. They should have prepared provisions since Moshe Rabbeinu had already told them that they would be leaving Egypt after this plague. They thought they would have time to prepare, not realizing that they would be rushed out and would not have the time.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah) offers a different insight. Moshe had told the Jews ahead of time that they would be leaving Egypt in the morning, after this last plague. Then why did they not prepare provisions for the long journey ahead? Rabbi Frand posits that perhaps the Jews had given up hope of ever leaving Egypt. After each plague, they had expected to leave Egypt. They probably were all packed and ready to go. Yet they were disappointed, time and time again. Although Moshe had told them that they would be leaving the morning after the plague of the Firstborn, by then they could not get excited because they had experienced so many disappointments. When they were actually redeemed the next morning, it shocked them. They had to leave quickly without time to prepare. They failed to realize that Hashem’s salvation can come as quick as the blink of an eye, so they were totally unprepared when it did occur.

A problem that seemed insurmountable can vanish in thin air, in an instant.

Hashem can redeem us from national problems and personal problems in the blink of an eye!