• Rabbi Chaim Richman

BeShalach - Emancipate Yourself from Expectations

The Torah portion of Beshalach teaches us a great deal about the possibility, and indeed the necessity, of changing our perceptions of reality. ‘The Children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea; the water was a wall for them, on their right side and on their left…..and the people feared Hashem, and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant (Ex. 14).’


When the nation of Israel passed through the walls of water on an avenue of dry land in the middle of a sea, they ‘believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant.’ But what is the meaning of this verse…prior to this did they not also believe?! But something irrevocably changed at the splitting of the sea. The experience afforded every man, woman and child, a paradigm shift of consciousness. It was their deep realization that only Hashem Himself is true reality. After the waters returned, they were able to see that Hashem’s world is just as miraculous at every moment…even under ‘normal’ circumstances. 


Most of us lead lives of routine, and we are ‘slaves’ to our expectations. Thus we do not see the miraculous all around us. All we see is ‘nature,’ and the way things go. We think that nothing will change; perhaps because we do not believe that we have the power ourselves to change (and perhaps that is the sad truth of why many Jews did not leave Egypt). 


In this very same Torah portion we learn about the Manna, the bread from Heaven which the Children of Israel merited to eat. The verse in Psalms 145 states ‘You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing [with] its desire.’ The secret of this verse is that Hashem gives every creature sustenance according to its desire. The desire of the Children of Israel was towards Heaven and thus they were given bread from Heaven. Hashem prepares sustenance for all His creations, but all goes according to our desire. We need the wisdom to know what to desire.


Open up your hearts in the deepest way. In chapter 16 we read, ‘The Children of Israel saw and said to one another, ‘What is it?’ – for they did not know what it was. Moshe said to them, ‘this is the bread that Hashem has given you for eating.’ The meaning of Moshe’s words is: This is the bread that Hashem has given you – the bread of not knowing – not knowing it and not understanding it is its secret, for the goal of all our knowledge is to know that we know nothing. If we remember this, and we follow after Hashem ‘into an unsown land’ (Jer. 2:2) and free ourselves from our expectations, then Hashem will always show us beyond our expectations.


This is the ‘Sabbath of Song,’ a special Shabbat which conveys to us great spiritual potential. May we recite the Song of the Sea with great joy and merit to see beyond the limitations that we place upon ourselves! Shabbat Shalom!

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