This Week’s Torah Portion: Beshalach

Split the red sea

Name: Beshalach

Reading: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

Haftarah: Judges 4:4 – 5:31

Parsha Summary – Beshalach

The Israelites Leave Egypt

God leads the Israelites away from Egypt via an indirect route, through the desert and by the Red Sea. Moses takes Joseph’s bones for reburial in their new land. God leads them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night and doesn’t leave the people.

Pharaoh Chases the Israelites

God tells Moses where to make camp and warns him that Pharaoh will change his mind and chase after the Israelites. Sure enough, Pharaoh regrets freeing his slaves and leaves with 600 chariots to pursue the Israelites. They catch up to the Israelite’s encampment; the people are scared and Moses reassures them.

Splitting the Red Sea

God tells Moses to hold his staff over the sea: dry land will appear, the Israelites will be able to cross safely, and the Egyptians will see who God truly is. Moses splits the sea and, surrounded by an angel and the pillar of cloud, the water is divided and the Israelites cross on dry ground. The Egyptians enter after them, but Moses releases the water and it crashes over the Egyptians, killing all of them.

Moses sings the famous “Song of the Sea”.

Finding Water in the Desert

Moses leads the people away from the Red Sea. The Israelites are thirsty so God shows Moses how to turn the bitter waters sweet enough to drink. They camp in Elim which has springs of water and palm trees for shade.

Manna – Bread from Heaven

The Israelites complain that they are hungry and will surely die in the desert. God tells Moses that He will bring down bread from the heavens that will settle on the dew and nourish the people, who may collect one portion per day (except on Fridays, when they may take double). A strange, scale-like substance appears, and the Israelites take what they need. Moses warns them not to leave any over, except on Fridays when they may prepare extra for the Sabbath. Manna sustains the people throughout their travels.

Moses Hits the Rock

The people again complain of thirst, so Moses asks God what to do. He tells Moses where to find a particular stone, and to hit it to make water flow from it.

Amalek Fights the Israelites

The tribe of Amalek fights with the Israelites. Moses tells Joshua to choose men to fight, then goes to the top of a hill with his staff to watch the battle. When Moses’s arms are raised the Israelites triumph, so his companions hold his hands in the air. Joshua and the Israelites are victorious. Moses builds an alter to thank God.