Exodus 13:17 – 17:15
The Route from Egypt
When Pharaoh let the people leave, HaShem did not lead them along the Philistine Highway, although it was the shorter route. HaShem’s consideration was that if the people encountered armed resistance, they would lose heart and return to Egypt. HaShem therefore made the people take a roundabout path, by way of the desert to the Red Sea. The Israelites were well prepared when they left Egypt.
Moses took Joseph’s remains with him. Joseph had bound the Israelites by an oath: “HaShem will grant you special providence, and you must then bring my remains out of here with you.”
The Israelites moved on from Sukkoth, and they camped in Etham, at the edge of the desert. HaShem went before them by day with a pillar of cloud, to guide them along the way. By night it appeared as a pillar of fire, providing them with light. They could thus travel day and night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night never left their position in front of the people.
HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them to turn back and camp before Freedom Valley, between Tower and the sea, facing Lord-of-the-North. Camp opposite it, near the sea. Pharaoh will then say that the Israelites are lost in the area and trapped in the desert. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will come after them. I will triumph over Pharaoh and his entire army, and Egypt will know that I am HaShem.”
The Israelites did as they were told. Meanwhile, the king of Egypt received the news that the people were escaping. Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds regarding the people, and said, “What have we done? How could we have released Israel from doing our work?”
Pharaoh harnessed his chariot, and summoned his people to go with him. He took 600 chariots with chosen crews, as well as the entire chariot corps of Egypt, with supporting infantry for them all. HaShem hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he went after the Israelites. Meanwhile, the Israelites were leaving in triumph. Setting out after the Israelites, the Egyptians overtook them while they were camping by the sea, at Freedom Valley, opposite Lord-of-the-North. All of Pharaoh’s chariot horses, cavalry and infantry were there. As Pharaoh came close, the Israelites looked up. They saw the Egyptians marching at their rear, and the people became very frightened. The Israelites cried out to HaShem.
They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you have to bring us out here to die in the desert? How could you do such a thing to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us work for the Egyptians? It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt than to die here in the desert!”
“Don’t be afraid,” replied Moses to the people. “Stand firm and you will see what HaShem will do to rescue you today. You might be seeing the Egyptians today, but you will never see them again. HaShem will fight for you, but you must remain silent.”
Crossing the Sea HaShem said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Israelites, and let them start moving. Raise your staff and extend your hand over the sea. You will split the sea, and the Israelites will be able to cross over on dry land. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will follow you. Thus I will triumph over Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariot corps and his cavalry. When I have this triumph over Pharaoh, his chariot corps and cavalry, Egypt will know that I am HaShem.”
HaShem’s angel had been traveling in front of the Israelite camp, but now it moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud thus moved from in front of them and stood at their rear. It came between the Egyptian and the Israelite camps. There was cloud and darkness that night, blocking out all visibility.
Moses extended his hand over the sea. During the entire night, HaShem drove back the sea with a powerful east wind, transforming the sea bed into dry land. The waters were divided. The Israelites entered the sea bed on dry land. The water was on their right and left like two walls.
The Egyptians gave chase and came after the Israelites. All of Pharaoh’s horses, chariot corps and cavalry went into the middle of the sea. Toward the end of the night HaShem struck at the Egyptian army with the pillar of fire and cloud. He panicked the Egyptian army. The chariot wheels became bogged down, and they could move only with great difficulty. The Egyptians cried out, “Let us flee from Israel! HaShem is fighting for them against Egypt!” HaShem said to Moses, “Extend your hand over the sea. The waters will come back over the Egyptians, covering their chariot corps and cavalry.”
Just before morning, Moses extended his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal condition. The Egyptians were fleeing the water, but HaShem swamped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters came back and covered the cavalry and chariots. Of all Pharaoh’s army that had followed the Israelites into the sea, not a single one remained.
Meanwhile, the Israelites were walking in the midst of the sea on dry land. The water was on their right and on their left like two walls. Thus, on that day, HaShem rescued the Israelites from Egypt. The Israelites saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. The Israelites saw the great power that HaShem had unleashed against Egypt, and the people were in awe of HaShem. They believed in HaShem and in his servant Moses.
Moses and the Israelites then sang this song to HaShem. It went:
I will sing to HaShem for His great victory,
Horse and rider He threw in the sea.
My strength and song is HaShem
And this is my deliverance;
This is my HaShem, I will enshrine Him
My father’s HaShem, I will exalt Him.
HaShem is the Master of war,
HaShem is His name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and army
He cast in the sea;
His very best officers
Were drowned in the Red Sea.
The depths covered them;
They sank to the bottom
Like a stone.
Your right Hand, O HaShem
Is awesome in power;
Your right Hand, O HaShem
crushes the foe.
In Your great Majesty
You broke Your opponents;
You sent forth Your wrath
It devoured them like straw.
At the blast of Your Nostrils
the waters towered.
Flowing water stood like a wall.
The depths congealed
In the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will give chase;
I will overtake, divide the spoils
I will satisfy myself.
I will draw my sword;
My hand will demolish them.’
You made Your wind blow;
The sea covered them.
They sank like lead
In the mighty waters.
Who is like You among powers, HaShem?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praise, doing wonders?
You put forth Your right Hand;
The earth swallowed them.
With love, You led
the people You redeemed;
With might, You led [them]
to Your holy shrine.
Nations heard and shuddered;
Terror gripped those who dwell in Philistia.
Edom’s chiefs then panicked;
Moab’s heroes were seized with trembling;
Canaan’s residents melted away.
Fear and dread fell upon them.
At the greatness of Your Arm
They are still as stone.
Until Your people crossed, O HaShem,
Until the people You gained crossed over.
O bring them and plant them
On the mount You possess.
The place You dwell in
Is Your accomplishment, HaShem.
The shrine of HaShem
Your Hands have founded.
HaShem will reign forever and ever.
This song was sung when Pharaoh’s horse came into the sea, along with his chariot corps and cavalry, and HaShem made the sea come back on them. The Israelites had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the drum in her hand, and all the women followed her with drums and dancing. Miriam led them in the response, “Sing to HaShem for His great victory, horse and rider He cast in the sea.”
The Bitter Waters
Moses led the Israelites away from the Red Sea, and they went out into the Shur Desert. They traveled for three days in the desert without finding any water. Finally, they came to Marah, but they could not drink any water there. The water was bitter (marah), and that was why the place was called Marah. The people complained to Moses. “What shall we drink?” they demanded.
When Moses cried out to HaShem, He showed him a certain tree. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable.
It was there that HaShem taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them. He said, “If you obey HaShem your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am HaShem who heals you.”
Elim and Sin
Then they came to Elim. Here there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms. They then camped by the water They moved on from Elim, and the entire community of Israel came to the Sin Desert, between Elim and Sinai. It was the 15th of the second month after they had left Egypt.
There in the desert, the entire Israelite community began to complain against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by HaShem’s hand in Egypt! There at least we could sit by pots of meat and eat our fill of bread! But you had to bring us out to this desert, to kill the entire community by starvation!”
HaShem said to Moses, “I will make bread rain down to you from the sky. The people will go out and gather enough for each day. I will test them to see whether or not they will keep My law. On Friday, they will have to prepare what they bring home. It will be twice as much as they gather every other day.”
Moses and Aaron said to the Israelites, “When evening comes, you will know that it was HaShem who took you out of Egypt; and in the morning, you will see HaShem’s glory. He has heard your complaints, which are against HaShem. After all, what are we that you should complain against us? In the evening, HaShem will give you meat to eat, and in the morning, there will be enough bread to fill you up. HaShem has heard your complaints, which you are actually addressing against Him. What are we? Your complaints are not against us, but against HaShem!”
Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the entire Israelite community to gather before HaShem, for He has heard your complaints.” When Aaron spoke to the entire Israelite community, they turned toward the desert. HaShem’s glory was visible in the clouds.
HaShem spoke to Moses, saying “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Speak to them and say, ‘In the afternoon you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will have your fill of bread. You will then know that I am HaShem your Lord.’ ”
That evening, a flock of quail came and covered the camp. Then in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, there were little grains all over the surface of the desert. It looked like fine frost on the ground. The Israelites looked at it, and had no idea what it was. “What is it?” they asked one another.
“HaShem’s instructions are that each man shall take as much as he needs. There shall be an omer for each person, according to the number of people each man has in his tent.”
When the Israelites went to do this, some gathered more and some less. But when they measured it with an omer, the one who had taken more did not have any extra, and the one who had taken less did not have too little. They had gathered exactly enough for each one to eat.
Moses announced to them, “Let no man leave any over until morning.” Some men did not listen to Moses and left a portion over for the morning. It became putrid and maggoty with worms. Moses was angry with these people. The people gathered it each morning, according to what each person would eat. Then, when the sun became hot, it melted. When Friday came, what they gathered turned out to be a double portion of food, two omers for each person. All the leaders of the community came and reported it to Moses.
Moses said to them, “This is what HaShem has said: Tomorrow is a day of rest, HaShem’s holy Sabbath. Bake what you want to bake, and cook what you want to cook today. Whatever you have left over, put aside carefully until morning.” They put it away until Saturday morning, as Moses had instructed. It was not putrid, and there were no maggots in it. Moses announced, “Eat it today, for today is HaShem’s Sabbath. You will not find anything in the field today. You are to gather this food during the six weekdays, but the seventh day is the Sabbath, and on that day there will not be any.”
Still, some people went out to gather food on Saturday, but they found nothing.
HaShem told Moses to tell the Israelites, “How long will you refuse to keep My commandments and My law? You must realize that HaShem has given you the Sabbath, and that is why I gave you food for two days on Friday. On the Sabbath every person must remain in his designated place. One may not leave his home to gather food on Saturday.” The people rested on Saturday. The family of Israel called the food manna. It looked like coriander seed, except that it was white. It tasted like a honey doughnut.
Moses said, “This is what HaShem has commanded: Fill an omer measure with the manna as a keepsake for your descendants. They will then see the food that I fed you in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.” Moses said to Aaron, “Take an urn and fill it with an omer of manna. Place it before HaShem as a keepsake for your descendants.”
As HaShem commanded Moses, Aaron later placed it before the Ark of Testimony as a keepsake. The Israelites were to eat the manna for 40 years, until they came to inhabited territory. They ate the manna until they came to the edge of the land of Canaan.
Water from the Rock
The entire Israelite community moved on from the Sin desert, travelling according to HaShem’s instructions until they camped in Rephidim. There was no water for the people to drink. The people began to quarrel with Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they exclaimed.
“Why are you quarreling with me?” asked Moses. “Are you trying to test HaShem?”
The people began to suffer thirst because of the lack of water, and they began demonstrating against Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” demanded the leader. “Do you want to make me, my children and my livestock die of thirst?”
Moses cried out to HaShem. “What shall I do for this people?” he said. “Before long they will stone me!” HaShem said to Moses, “March in front of the people along with the elders of Israel. Take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
Moses did this in the presence of the elders of Israel. Moses named the place Testing-and-Argument because the people had argued and had tested HaShem. They had asked, “Is HaShem with us or not?”
Amalek arrived and attacked Israel there in Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us, and prepare for battle against Amalek. Tomorrow, I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of HaShem in my hand.”
Joshua did as Moses had told him, engaging Amalek in battle. Moses, Aaron and Chur went up to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held his hands up, Israel would be winning, but as soon as he let his hands down, the battle would go in Amalek’s favor. When Moses’ hands became weary, they took a stone and placed it under him, so that he would be able to sit on it. Aaron and Chur then held his hands, one on each side, and his hands remained steady until sunset.
Joshua was thus able to break the ranks of Amalek and his allies with the sword.
HaShem said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in the Book and repeat it carefully to Joshua. I will totally obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.”
Moses built an altar, and he named it HaShem-is-my-Banner. He said, “The Hand is on HaShem’s Throne. HaShem shall be at war with Amalek for all generations.”
This week’s Parsha has the people of Israel leaving Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chase them. HaShem performs another miracle by splitting the Red Sea, letting the people of Israel escape and drowning the Egyptians. Moses sings a song of praise to HaShem.
The Jewish people are being oppressed by Jabin the king of Canaan and his general Sisera. Deborah rallies Barak and the Israelites and they win the day. Deborah leads the people in a song of praise to HaShem.
- Sixteenth of 54 Sedras in the Torah
- Written on 216 lines in the Sefer Torah
- 116 P’sukim (verses)
- 1,681 words
- 6,423 letters
Next week’s Parashat: Yithro