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Through thick and thin, loyalty must remain constant.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Beshalach” (Exodus 13:17–17:16), and in it we read about the Exodus form Egypt. Finally, after 210 years, the Jewish people were released from slavery and on their way to freedom in what would be their own land forever.

The first major stop upon leaving Egypt was the Red Sea followed by 40 years and 42 different encampments until they reached the Land of Israel. How did they know where to go? This was before GPS and WAZE!

The Torah tells us “And God was going before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them on the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to illuminate for them to go by day and by night” (Exodus 13:21).

It is taught the “day” and “night” in this verse should not just be taken at face value. “Day” is also a metaphor for “brightness” “goodness” “ease,” while “night” is a metaphor for “difficulty” “fear” and “challenge.” The verse is teaching us that we should attach ourselves to God and believe in Him not only during the “day,” when things are going well, but even during the“night,” when we are faced with challenges.

One of the first “stations” after the crossing of the Red Sea was a place called Marah. The word “marah” means “bitter,” and the place was called Marah because the water there was bitter. Things weren’t going too well. The nation was complaining. Another item for which Marah was noted was that it was there that God began to reveal some of the Torah and its laws — even though it was before the Revelation at Sinai, when the Torah was formally given.

As it says, “…there He (God) gave the nation statutes and judgements, and there He tested him…. And He said: ‘if you will surely listen to the voice of your God, and you will do what is right in His eyes, and you will hearken to His commandments, and you will guard His statutes, all of the disease which I placed upon Egypt I shall not place upon you, for I am God your healer.”

This is somewhat odd, is it not? The Jews complain about the water, so God gives them homework, so to speak?

Similar to the idea discussed above, when things aren’t going well, when life is “bitter,” look towards God. Whether through prayer or Torah study, God is the answer both by “day” and by “night.”

Indeed, in another “station,” also in this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people again complained about the water quality. This time the place was called “Refidim,” which is said to be a play on the words “Rifyon Yadayim,” which means “a laxity in their hands” referring to a laxity in their observance and service of God!

When things are going well, it’s easy to be loyal and loving of God. But when the going gets tough, what happens to that loyalty and love? We have to be consistent in our faith and observance no matter where we find ourselves.

It was easy to be righteous at the Red Sea, where the people saw jaw-dropping miracles before their very eyes. Unfortunately, the people did not take that inspiration with them and found themselves straying from the path when things got tough. Let’s not make that mistake. Let us remember to follow the “pillar of fire” even at “night.”

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.

https://unitedwithisrael.org/the-splitting-of-the-sea-what-really-happened/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-a-leader-must-have-foresight/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-leaving-egypt-and-looking-to-the-future/

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