At the end of last weeks reading, Pharaoh finally sent the Jews out of Egypt (Shemot 12:31). The Jews were escorted out of Egypt and into the wilderness accompanied by the ‘clouds of glory’ and ‘pillars of fire (Shemot 13:21).’ The clouds were brought about in honor of Aaron (Gemara Sotah 11), in his merit, as he was the peacemaker amongst the Jews, always making peace between people in quarrels, in fact when individuals were tempted to sin, they would say to themselves how would we be able to look at Aaron tomorrow if we transgress? He would provide every individual with an increase in self esteem and make them feel good about themselves. In fact the gemorah (Ketubot 111b) says that showing another person the white of one's teeth with a warm smile is an even greater act of kindness than giving him milk, as a nutritious smile can change anyone’s day from bad to brilliant!
G-d led the Jews towards Eretz Yisrael on a circuitous route, taking three days, avoiding the Pelishtim (Philistines) (shemot 13:17). As the Jews were journeying on, Pharaoh regretted letting the Jews leave (Shemot 14:5), as they took with them a mass amount of Egyptian wealth and many converted Jews, know as the ‘Eiruv Rav.’
Pharaoh decided to now chase after the Jews to bring them back by force to Egypt; he ordered most of the Egyptian men and prepared 600 of the best chariots accompanied by horses (Shemot 14:7) and precious gold to go to battle against the Jews (Rashi). In fact, Pharaoh, unlike many leaders, went at the front and said ‘I will lead in battle ,’ he was so eager to beat the Jews that he was willing to risk his life at battle, unlike most other kings that usually let everyone else to the dangerous work (Shemot 14:10).
As the Egyptians drew close, the Jews started worrying and complaining, they cried to Moshe ‘you took us out of Egypt to die! (Shemot 14:11)’ this was viewed by Hashem as a bad complaint.
However as they drew closer, Moshe raised his hands in prayer and Hashem said enough! Your prayers are answered! However now you need to put some action in to it (Sota 37a)! Then enter a man of the name Nachshon Ben Aminidav, an individual from the tribe of Yehudah who had the guts to run in to the water, as the water touched his neck, the sea split (Shemot Rabba 21:10 & Sota 37b).
In reward for Nachshon’s heroism, he later on became the leader of the tribe of Yehudah, and kings descended from his tribe. We also learn a lesson from here, that prayer, sometimes may not be enough, Hashem also wants to see an individual put in some effort into tasks they do!
As the Egyptians witnessed this, while the sea was still split, they all ran in, however, the waters became destructive and tossed all the Egyptians around the sea as they experienced a most brutal death due to all the suffering they caused the Jews (Shemot 14:27 & Sota 11a).
After the miracle of the sea, another miracle occurred as all the Jews sang a song, ‘Az Yashir’ in praise of Hashem, a prayer we read every morning in the shacharit service. While singing this song, all the Jews, attained high level prophecy (Mechilta) and everyone sang this song responsivley with Moshe (Sota 30b) with immense joy!! It was a miracle in its own right, as millions of Jews & the mixed multitude sang the song, knowing all the words and seeing the future at exactly the same time!
They then spent the next three days by the sea, collecting all the remaining booty which the Egyptians brought in to the chariot (Shemot Rabba 24:2), however they were criticized by the sages for doing this as they neglected Torah study for three days. In correcting this transgression, in modern era, we take out the Torah to read at Shacharit every Shabbat morning, Monday and Thursday morning, so that we don’t neglect Torah for three days (Mechilta)!
As the Jews entered the wilderness, they started complaining for water, as they lacked it in an area of the name ’Marah' (Erchin 15). Moshe, under Hashem’s instruction threw a bitter stick in to a river of ‘bitter water (Shemot 15:23),’ and a miracle occurred, the water was sweet, which in turn provided them with nourishing delicious water (Shemot 15:25).
After receiving water, the Jews were taught by Moshe (Sanhedrin 56b), the laws on the Mishpatim (ordinances), Shabbat and ‘Red Cow (Parah Adumah) (Bamidbar 19).’
The people shortly after complained yet again, that they ate better food in Egypt (Shemot 16:3).
G-d then provided manna (Shemot 16:4), miraculous bread that fell from the sky every day except Shabbat. On Friday a double portion descended to provide all Shabbat needs (Shemot 16:5). The manna was also stored in a flask, which was placed later in the Mishkan and temple. When Jews complained that they had no time to learn Torah, the prophet Yirmiyahu, brought out the flask, made the people smell the ‘manna,’ and the aroma made them learn (Yirmiyahu 2:31)!
The Jews then complained for Meat, so in turn Hashem covered the camp with quail (Shemot 16:13), so that they could eat this food.
Then they complained again about a lack of water. Moshe miraculously then produced water from a rock by hitting it (Shemot 17:6). However as a punishment for the complaints, Hashem brought Amalek (descending from Eisav’s son Eliphaz) to attack the Jews. Joshua led the Jews in battle while Moshe prayed for their welfare accompanied by Miriam’s son, Chur, and they won in battle (Shemot 17:13).
The Haftorah read by Sefardim for this weeks Parshah is from chapter 5 of the book of Shoftim, featuring one of the ten prophetic songs featured in the Tanach, which was sang by the judge and prophetess, Devorah, in praise of the righteous, Yael, defeating the enemy, Sisra.