Parsha Beshalach — What is our Merit?
So, here we are facing uncertainty, war, and death. Hoping and praying for a miracle.
ויאמר משה אל־העם אל־תיראו התיצבו וראו את־ישועת יהוה אשר־יעשה לכם היום כי אשר ראיתם את־מצרים היום לא תספו לראתם עוד עד־עולם׃
And Moses said to the people, Do not fear, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.
We are standing at the Red Sea. The Sea splits, we march threw and when our pursuers chase us, they drown.
We are saved, we sing songs of praise. We are Free.
And then Amalek comes. Puts doubts in our minds.
Life again has its challenges.
Fast forward to May 1948.
We as a people have just suffered the most despicable trauma and decimation through the Holocaust. We have been gifted a state of our own. Not a full state, but a start. We are warned not to declare the State of Israel. We do and are immediately attacked by the Arab countries supported by the British. No other country will supply us with weapons. We are alone the survivors of the Holocaust facing being wiped out.
We need a miracle.
We have no choice. So, we cry out to God? We have no choice but to fight.
We are standing at our splitting of the sea moment.
Let’s pause here.
I have just finished reading the book ‘ The Hope” by Herman Wouk an observant Jew. it is a riveting tale, and through this book based on fact and fiction, there is a tension between faith, miracles, boldness, luck.
There are a few thoughts that I want to share.
1. Israel was alone. We could not secure weapons. No country wanted to supply us Tanks. Even the fair-weathered friend — The USA. The world through the UN was Anti Israel.
Although we are stronger today, we are still very much singled out amongst all the Nations of the world.
2. Morality and Merits
In The Hope, the author highlights extramarital affairs and eating shrimps as this is a normal thing.
I am not sure what motivated him.
We are told that 80% of the adults in Egypt did not merit being redeemed and died in Egypt.
Today, we can say that 80% of Jews do not identify with Judaism or Zionism. They are happy to assimilate. But what about the children — the next generation? How can inspire them to keep the Jewish faith?
I heard a beautiful thought on what happened to those children of the 80% of those who died in Egypt. The children were innocent and did not die.
They were adopted by the families who went out of Egypt. So, each family adopted 4 families. this is one of explanation of וחמשים Chumushim.
ויסב אלהים את־העם דרך המדבר ים־סוף וחמשים עלו בני־ישראל מארץ מצרים׃
But God led the people around, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea; and the people of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.
They merited to be saved by the care of looking after these children. This was no easy feat.
This is not dissimilar to 1948 when Israel absorbed so many refugees and survivors.
And we stand here today.
Our enemies within and without continue to question our right to exist. We are the only people, a country whose right to exist is questioned.
When we left Egypt, the children of Israel did not have so many merits and in some accounts, they were not worthy of being redeemed. Maybe they earned the merit by looking after the surviving children.
Maybe, our redeeming feature is an aspiration to a more caring and just society and world.