Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha p’tucha or s’tuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
Kohen - First Aliya - 14 p'sukim - 13:17-14:8
SDT The Midrash tells us that Yosef's bones had been hidden by the Egyptians in the Nile in order to prevent the Israelites from leaving the country. Yosef's coffin miraculously surfaced just at the right time, so that the People could take it with them when they left. We are taught that Yosef merited being taken out of Egypt for burial in Eretz Yisrael because he had arranged for his father's burial there. Moshe, in turn, was accorded the highest honor - G-d Himself took care of Moshe's burial, in reward for the attention he paid to Yosef's remains.
[FYI] The Gemara teaches us that a dead body itself - and certainly one who is defiled to a dead body - is allowed into the "Levite Camp", and is only banned from the Mikdash area. This we learn from the fact that Moshe took Yosef's bones "with him". This halacha has significance today concerning halachic permissibility of ascending Har HaBayit in those areas that are outside the Mikdash area. That part of Har HaBayit has the status of the Levite camp, and one may go there following immersion in a Mikve to rid oneself of "the defilement that comes from the body". (Defilement to a dead body cannot be removed without the Para Aduma potion.)- and with other restrictions. A person should consult a Rav with Har HaBayit experience before going there.
G-d provided an escort for the People in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.
[P> 14:1 (14)] G-d tells Moshe of His plan to lead the People in such a way that Par'o will pursue them in the misguided hope of bringing them back to Egypt.
When Par'o is notified (by spies whom he had sent to accompany the Israelites) of the People's whereabouts, he (with G-d's help in making his heart "heavy"/strong) takes a tremendous force with him and chases after the People of Israel.
SDT "And G-d did not allow them to go DERECH ERETZ P'LISHTIM. Literally, they did not take the straight route to the territory of the Philistines. One commentator suggests an interesting DRASH based on a play on words. G-d did not take the People out of Egypt in DERECH ERETZ, in the normal, natural way of things, but in a miraculous way. Normally, bread comes from the ground; for the People of Israel, G-d sent them bread from above. Normally, water comes from above; for the People of Israel, G-d provided water from below, from the miraculous Well that accompanied them on their journeys, in the merit of Miriam. Not taking us out in a natural manner, leaves us with no doubt that it was indeed G-d Who took us out of Egypt. This is a crucial foundation stone of Judaism. Not only did we get out of Mitzrayim, but it was G-d Who took us out. Not only did He take us out, but the people knew and know it well.
SDT It seems that Par'o actually thought that he let the People go - that he expelled the People from Egypt. That's even what it seems to say at the beginning of this week's sedra (When Par'o sent the people out...). G-d arranged to have Par'o run after them. Then the events make it crystal clear to him - and to us - that G-d, and only G-d took us out of Egypt. Without this part of the Exodus procedure, Par'o and his people - and probably some Jews as well, would think that Par'o had a part in letting us leave Egypt. With the opening commandment of the Aseret HaDibrot stating, I am HaShem, your G-d, Who took you out of Mitzrayim... this point is essential.
SDT Our Sages teach us
that there are times that prayer is called for, and other times when
action is the order of the day. Sometimes we must use long prayers
and petitions; sometimes a quick prayer not only suffices, but
saying more can be counter-productive. G-d says: MA TITZ'AK EILAI,
why call to me? MA is spelled MEM-HEI.MEM can represent the 40 days
and 40 nights that Moshe was to spend in prayer on behalf of the
People following the Sin of the Golden Calf. MEM represents long
prayer. HEI can stand for the simple but eloquent 5-word prayer for
Miriam's recovery from Tzora'at which she contracted in punishment
for speaking disrepectfully of Moshe. And sometimes, neither short
nor long prayer is appropriate. At this point of the Exodus, the
order of the day was decisive action. Move it! There is another
example later in the Torah of Moshe and Aharon springing into
immediate action to stop a plague from killing the People. We must
know when to say T'hilim and went to act, and when to do both.
The guardian angel (pillar of cloud) that was leading the People now was repositioned between the Jews and the pursuing Egyptian army, preventing contact.
Moshe raises his hand above the Sea and G-d causes a powerful easterly wind to blow all night, followed by a parting of the waters. The People of Israel enter the Sea on dry land, between walls of water.
Egypt boldly follows,
but the arrogant attitude of the Egyptians abruptly changes to fear
and panic as their chariots lose their wheels and bog down in the
seabed. (This is in sharp contrast with the perfectly dry land that
Israel found beneath its feet.)
But the night's preparation for the miracles of the day serve several purposes. The Egyptians are lulled into a false sense of security when something is happening that they can explain. They don't want to accept that the G-d of Israel is performing miracles for His people. No doubt, their wizards explained the desert winds and the effects it can have. Among the Jews, there are always individuals who would like not to admit to G-d's awesome powers. They too will have their "excuse" in the natural components of the miracle. Perhaps, most importantly, this wind (and the like) allows us to relate to and better appreciate, the miracles themselves. A snap of the finger brings results too quickly for us to think about what is happening. A night to ponder what was going on, further enhanced the appreciation of the Children of Israel for what had happened, was happening, and was to happen.
[P> 15:1 (19)] Next comes the Song of the Sea. What makes the Song of the Sea so special is that it is a direct quote of the People of Israel that G-d put into His Torah verbatim. In other words, the rest of the Torah is written by G-d; we composed this part. It is an inspiring passage that has been incorporated into the daily davening.
SDT It is written in Sefer HaChareidim that "he who says the Song of the Sea aloud and with joy, it is as if he was leaving Egypt at that moment - and his sins will be forgiven." In the merit of the Song of the Sea, G-d split the Sea for the People and forgave their transgressions.
This 19-pasuk parsha is unique in the way it is written in a Sefer Torah. The column that contains the Shira is written wider than all the other columns in the Torah. It is a Tradition to start the column with 5 lines belonging to the previous parsha, beginning with the word HABA'IM. (There is a tradition to write a Sefer Torah in such a way that each column - of approx. 245 columns - begins with the letter VAV, except for 5 columns - this is one of the five.) Then a line is skipped (this is very rare in the Torah) and then the first line of AZ YASHIR is written all the way across the column. The next line has one word, a blank space, a group of words (from 3-5), another blank space, and then a single word to end the line. Call this line pattern A. The next line starts with a group of words (2-5), a space, and another group of words (3-5). Call this line pattern B. After the first line, the rest of the Shira parsha consists of another 29 lines, alternating patterns A and B, ending with an A. Then a line is skipped. Five more "regular" lines of Torah text finish off the column. Review: 5 lines + a skipped line top and bottom of the column total 12 lines. The Shira itself has one full line at the beginning and 29 in a brick pattern (ABABAB...) That's 30 lines + the 12 = 42 lines, as most Sifrei Torah have. The column with the Shira has the same number of lines as all the other Torah columns, but is wider, as mentioned earlier. And it has a lot of blank space and two blank lines. The Song in Haazinu is also written in a different form from the rest of the Torah, but this column in B'shalach is more eye-catchingly unusual.
[P> 15:20 (2)] Following the Shira portion is a 2-pasuk parsha describing Miriam's rallying of the women to join in the Shira in their own way.
[S> 15:22 (5)] The People continue their journey and fail to find water for three days. When they do find some, they complain bitterly (pun intended) of the inability to drink it. G-d directs Moshe to perform a miracle by throwing a special piece of wood into the water whereby the water becomes sweet.
SDT Aside from the literal meaning of the text, this episode is considered an allusion to the primacy of Torah in the life of a Jew. Both Torah and water sustain life - spiritual and physical. In the same vein, "three days without water" resulted in our reading the Torah on Monday and Thursday, so that in our wandering in the spiritual desert of life, we will not go 3 days without spiritual water. This is but one "use" of the well-known analogy between Torah and water. This idea is not just a matter of DRASH. The last pasuk of this parsha tells that if we will harken to G-d's Voice and follow the Torah, keep the mitzvot... then all the ills that befell Egypt will not be put upon us...
[S> 16:4 (7)] G-d tells Moshe about the MN (manna, mahn) which He will soon provide for the People. Moshe tells the People that they will soon see how G-d hears and listens to their complaints. MN is not just the food that sustains the people throughout their wandering, it is also a crucial test of the faith that the people should have in G-d. The MN was to fall daily except for Shabbat, and was not allowed to be left over night (except for what fell on Friday). This facilitated a constant strengthening of our faith in G-d - the need to "trust" Him every single day.
Quail miraculously appear in the evening, and the people eat "meat". On the next morning, the MN - protected by a layer of dew above and below it - appears. The People are fascinated by it and when they question Moshe, he explains the rules and procedures set down by G-d. Nonetheless, there were people who left over MN from one day to the next, and this angered Moshe. And, despite being told that the MN will NOT fall on Shabbat, there were individuals who went out to search for it.
[S> 16:28 (9)] G-d "takes note" of this display of lack of faith and "asks" how long we will continue to refuse to keep His commands.
The parsha of the MN is our first real introduction to Shabbat. This is the meaning of the line in DAYEINU, had You given us the Shabbat and not brought us near Har Sinai, DAYEINU. Although Shabbat is an integral part of Revelation at Sinai, it actually preceded Matan Torah.
Several customs and practices come from the Parsha of the MN. Our use of two Challot at each Shabbat meal (ideally, at Seuda Shlishit, too) is a commemoration of the MN which fell in double quantity on Friday, in honor of Shabbat. The covering of the challa is partially due to the layer of dew that covered and protected the MN. We learn the important lesson that Shabbat is honored by being prepared for. It is not just a corollary of the prohibitions of Shabbat that we prepare our food in advance, it is an essential feature of Shabbat and the role of the days of the week. The requirement of having three meals on Shabbat, Shalosh Seudot, is inspired by the pasuk that describes what Moshe said to the people about their first (and all subsequent) Shabbat. And Moshe said, eat it (the MN) today, for today is Shabbat to G-d, today you will not find it (MN) in the field. The three instances of TODAY in the pasuk with eating and Shabbat, inspired (shall we say) our Sages to require three meals on Shabbat. (It's more complicated than that, but we'll suffice with this explanation.)
Included in the instructions about the MN is the command not to "leave our PLACE on the seventh day (to collect the MN)". This was not just a rule for that generation; it is a mitzva among the 613 - the mitzva of T'chum Shabbat [24,L321 16:29]. Briefly, the point of T'CHUM is not about how far we may walk on Shabbat. It is about how far AWAY FROM HOME we may go. This is obvious from the halachic details of T'CHUM. The weekdays are for going. Shabbat is for staying put (as defined by halacha) and being able to "relax" and ponder G-d's Creation and Mastery over all.
A sample of the MN was stored as a remembrance for future generations.
Ramban holds that the whole topic of T’CHUM is Rabbinic; that the Torah does not have such a restriction, and that the pasuk in this week’s sedra from which Rambam learns T’CHUM, is talking about other Shabbat matters.
It is important to realize that the prohibition of T’CHUM, be it D’Oraita or D’Rabbanan, was not meant to put a limit on physical exertion or the distance a person may walk on Shabbat. A person who lives in a house in the boondocks (yenemsvelt) which is located on a small plot of land with a fence around it, is restricted to a distance of about a kilometer outside his fence. Another person who lives in a big city can walk from one end to the other - from Gilo to Ramot and back again - miles and miles - and not have a problem of T’CHUM at all. And even the first guy with the house near no others can walk around and around his property all Shabbat long. As long as he does not go outside his T’CHUM, he’s okay. (Not really, because he has to figure out why he spends all Shabbat walking in circles around his home.) The topics of T'CHUM and EIRUV are complex. This only touched on a few points.
[P> 17:8 (6)] The final 9 p'sukim (it is also the Torah reading of Purim morning, and this year it is the Maftir of Shabbat-Purim in Yerushalayim) tell of the attack by Amalek on the fledgling nation of Israel. It is the arch-typical fight against those who would seek to destroy us. This battle repeats itself - differently- throughout Jewish History.
[P> 17:14 (3)] G-d tells Moshe to write down and tell Yehoshua that I (G-d) will wipe out the memory of Amalek... This is not just Israel's battle, but G-d's as well.
Devorah enlists Barak to lead an army against them. With the success of the battle, Devorah sang a song of praise and thanks to G-d, similar in nature to that of Moshe and Bnei Yisrael in the parsha. So too, the People's faith in G-d had similar "ups and downs" to those in the sedra. Devorah was key to restoring a high level of faith in G-d among the People and in leading the People to great victories.
S'faradim read the Song of Devorah as the haftara for B'shalach. Ashkenazim start earlier and include in the reading the story of Sisra's temporary escape from Barak and his army, only to find his demise at the hand (and tent peg) of Yael, wife of Chever HaKeini.