We open up the parashah with the Jewish people travelling through the desert, following Hashem’s lead. Hashem doesn’t lead them in a straight path, but rather in a roundabout way.
Paroh promptly changes his mind and brings his army in pursuit of the Jewish escapees. The Jewish people panic, and Hashem assures them that He will take care of them now just as He already has.
The Jewish people approach the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds), the Egyptian nation in hot pursuit. In a miraculous display of His ultimate control over every facet of nature, Hashem splits the sea for the Jewish people to cross through. As soon as the Jews are through, the water crashes down to kill their Egyptian masters!
The Jewish people finally realize that Hashem is serious about them, and they believe in Him and that Moshe truly is His servant. Led by Moshe Rabbeinu, the Jewish people sing Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea, in praise of Hashem for the miracles He has performed for them. The women also sing to Hashem, led by Miriam HaNeviah.
The Jews continue travelling and can’t find water. They come to Marah where the water is bitter. The Jewish people complain to Moshe; Moshe turns to Hashem and He instructs him how to cure the water of its bitter taste.
The nation continues travelling through the desert. The people soon complain of the lack of food. Hashem promises the gift of the mann, food that rains down daily from heaven. On Friday, the people are told to collect two portions of mann in preparation for Shabbos, the day of rest, when the heavenly food will not come down.
Again the Jews complain of thirst; Hashem once again comes through for them and provides water through Moshe’s hitting of a rock.
The nation of Amaleik, the Jews’ archenemy, attacks. Moshe commands his student Yehoshua to gather an army and fight back. While the army goes to fight, Moshe Rabbeinu holds his arms up to heaven. When his arms are up, the war effort succeeds. When they start to fall, the Jews’ success weakens.
With Hashem’s guidance, the Jews are victorious over the first of many battles to come with Amaleik.
Reading through this week’s parashah, there was one theme that stood out to me. It is a central concept in Judaism, and really helps us live life in a calm, easygoing way.
Hishtadlus, or in the much less eloquent English, effort, is a theme that constantly comes up in our daily lives. Hishtadlus is something that we have to balance daily with our level of trust in Hashem. The question always comes up: How much of this is up to me, and how much is out of my control?
The Jewish nation’s 40-year trek through the desert (which we’re just starting to learn about!) was a 40-year Bitachon (trust in G-d) lesson. From not having water or food to being chased by their captors of centuries, the Jewish people had to completely trust that Hashem was going to pull through for them and save them from whatever situation they were in. Otherwise, life would have been quite impossible. After all, how can a few worn-out, newly freed slaves ward off a sea and an army? How can a small band of Jewish soldiers win a war against Amaleik?
It’s only with the right balance of Hishtadlus and Bitachon that we can get through any situation in life. In the desert, they had to sometimes do something physical, like go outside to get the mann. The bulk of the work, however, was done by Hashem. He’s the One Who made the mann come down to begin with! Similarly, by the war with Amaleik, the Jewish army had to go out. Moshe had to hold up his hands in prayer… but the job was done by Hashem. He didn’t need their help.
Hashem is all powerful. But in order to deserve His bounty and generosity, we have to show Him that we’re willing to work for it. That it’s worth something to us.
Even in today’s world, the balance between Hishtadlus and Bitachon is hard to maintain. How many hours should I work? How long should I study for this test?
If I don’t study, I’ll probably fail. But what if it’s impossible? Sooooo hard? Study as much as you can. Hashem will see that you put in the effort and He will make sure that you get the grade that you need to get. (Remember, we don’t always understand WHY we had to get that grade, but Hashem did think about it before doing it!)
What goal are you striving for that, with Hashem’s help, you’ll be able to achieve in the near future?
I’ve been listening to the “iPhone Song” performed by Mendy Fisch over and over again all night. It’s awesome and brilliant! If you’d like to hear it, you can check it out here.
Have a super Shabbos!