Liberated from bondage, the Israelites begin their march toward their own land. God leads the people to the Sea of Reeds (the Red Sea). Marching with the bones of Joseph, the Israelites follow a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
God tells Moses that Pharaoh will pursue the former slaves, and indeed, the king regrets having freed the Hebrews. He orders his chariot and soldiers to go after the Israelites and they overtake the terrified people by the sea. Crying out to God, the people panic, but Moses calms them with the promise that they will see God’s work that same day. God scolds Moses, telling him not to cry to God, but to tell the Israelites to go forward. Moses then lifts up his rod, and the sea splits, so that the Israelites may march through on dry land. Behind the fleeing people, the cloud of darkness settles on the Egyptians, preventing them from moving ahead.
The next morning, the Egyptians are able finally to give chase, but a pillar of fire creates panic among the soldiers. The chariot wheels become bogged in the mud, and the Egyptians finally realise that God is fighting for the Israelites. God instructs Moses to extend his rod once more, and the sea crashes over the Egyptian army, drowning every one of the once-proud soldiers. So great is their joy at seeing this miracle of liberation that Moses and the Israelites sing a song to God: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the mighty?”. Miriam takes up a timbrel and she and the women dance and sing in celebration.
From the sea, the Israelites move on into the wilderness. For three days, they find no water, and begin to criticise Moses. With another miracle, Moses is able to make bitter water sweet, until they finally arrive at an oasis at Elim. A few days later, the Israelites again grumble, this time complaining of hunger. God responds by making manna and quail fall from the sky. The Israelites are commanded to gather the manna each day, and on the sixth day to collect double so they won’t need to violate the Shabbat by working on that day. The people are instructed to remain in their places inactive for the Shabbat day and to remain inactive on that holy day.
From the wilderness of Sin, the Israelites move on to Massah and Meribah, again quarrelling with Moses over water. God tells Moses to strike the rock with his rod and when he does, water shoots forth.
Finally, the evil Amalekites launch an attack on the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses sits between Aaron and Hur. They hold up his arms and Israel prevails under the military leadership of Joshua.
Based on the Bedside Torah by Rabbi Bradley Artson
Questions for discussion
1- God’s exclamation of “why do you cry to me, just move!” could be extrapolated to some other situations in our lives, could you think of an example?
2- How could the Egyptians continue to ride towards the Israelites after realising that God was fighting on their side?
3- How could the Israelites complain so quickly for food and water after experiencing such a miracle as the parting of the Sea?