This week’s parsha of Beshalach is associated with the splitting of the sea at Krias Yam Suf, where the Jewish people finished their exit from Mitzrayim. It was there that they beheld the splendor of Hashem, as never before. It was there that they realized the promise of Hashem, “lokachas lo goy mikerev goy.” They not only achieved independence from Mitzrayim, but became an independent nation.
Coupled with this theme is that of “re’iyah,” the ability to see, and through vision perceive the truth and appreciate reality.
But before that happened, the Torah tells us (Shemos 14:9-14) that the Mitzriyim regretted their decision to free the slaves and chased after them, approaching them as they camped on the banks of the Yam Suf. The posuk relates that Paroh neared and “vayisu es eineihem vehinei Mitzrayim noseia achareiheim vayiru meod,” the Bnei Yisroel raised their eyes and saw that Mitzrayim was chasing after them and they feared greatly. The people cried out to Moshe, who calmed them and told them, “Al tirau, hisyatzvu ureu es yeshuas Hashem, have no fear, watch the salvation that Hashem will do for you today, and the way you saw Mitzrayim today, you will never see them again forever, ki asher re’isem es Mitzrayim hayom lo sosifu lirosam od ad olam. Hashem yilochem lochem v’atem tacharishun. Hashem will fight for you and you will be silent.”
It’s all about vision and perspective. They saw Mitzrayim chasing after them and feared for their lives. Moshe Rabbeinu calmed them and told them that they would never see Mitzrayim again the way they were seeing them that day. And then he tells them that Hashem would fight for them and they would be rescued.
Prior to Hashem separating the sea for them and leading them through it to make their final split from Mitzrayim, the freed slaves were not yet an “am”; they were not yet their own independent nation. They still viewed Mitzrayim with the type of awe and fear that a slave has for his master. They viewed Paroh as an arrogant, tough and strong leader, whom they feared and dreaded.
That was only until Krias Yam Suf, whereupon Hashem took them as His “goy mikerev goy.” From then on, they never viewed Mitzrayim again with any measure of respect or fear. They were now Hashem’s people. They saw how Hashem had finally beaten Mitzrayim and recognized that Paroh and his nation held nothing over them and could no longer harm them.
Following Krias Yam Suf, the pesukim (Shemos 14:30-31) relate that at the shores of the Yam Suf, “Vayar Yisroel,” the people saw and thought that they beheld the ultimate judgment and precision of Hashem’s rule. First, “Vayar Yisroel es Mitzrayim meis al sefas hayom,” they saw the Mitzriyim lying dead on the banks of the sea, and then “Vayar Yisroel es hayod hagedolah asher asah Hashem b’Mitzrayim,” they appreciated the might of the Hand of Hashem. And then “Vayiru ha’am es Hashem vaya’aminu baHashem uveMoshe avdo, they feared Hashem and believed in Him and His servant Moshe.”
As they became a nation, they saw the truth and appreciated it, and it caused them to fear and believe Hashem.
It’s all about vision and perspective.
Shortly thereafter, once again, the people veered from Hashem and complained that they didn’t have enough food to sustain them in the desert. Hashem sent them slov birds in the evening so they would have meat, and in the morning, He sent them a type of food coated with protective dew.
The posuk (ibid. 16:15) relates that in the morning, when this food was spread out for them to eat, “Vayiru Bnei Yisroel,” the Jewish people saw the food and asked each other what it was. They called it monn. Again, we encounter the word “re’iyah,” seeing. This time, they saw something they didn’t understand, so they turned to Moshe, who explained to them what they had seen. They followed his instructions and were satiated with monn for the rest of their sojourn in the desert.
Further in the parsha (ibid. 16:29), we encounter “re’iyah” again, when Moshe admonishes the Jewish people about Shabbos. He says, “Re’u ki Hashem nosan lochem es haShabbos – See that Hashem has given you the day of Shabbos.”
Re’u. See. See the Shabbos. See that Hashem gave you Shabbos. Use your eyes, use your gift of vision and perception, and you can understand and appreciate the gift of Shabbos. See that you are getting a double portion of monn on Friday (Rashi), and see that no monn falls on Shabbos. Observe and you will be observant.
The truth of Shabbos is plainly evident. Our nation came into being in a parsha of “re’iyah.” We are blessed with vision, on a basic human level as are others, but beyond that, we have the ability to perceive what is beneath the surface, comprehending what is really going on and how it relates to us.
When we don’t comprehend what we see, we turn to the Torah for guidance.
In times when there are smokescreens that blind the eye from seeing what is going on and, more importantly, block us from understanding events, we don’t have to feel lost. We turn to the Torah. In times of darkness, such as ours, the Torah provides for us the light to illuminate our path and properly see and understand what is going on, when others are not able to.
Witness what is currently going on in this country and around the world as things happen that seem to make no sense and people argue about plainly obvious facts.
People who speak of tolerance, openness and working together show themselves to be consumed by hate and totally intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. The Democrats are led by a weak, incompetent, challenged president who dips lower in the polls with every passing day. As projections show them losing the Senate and House in the upcoming election, they hit on a new campaign tactic to try to show that former President Trump and the Republicans plotted an insurrection to remain in power in coup-like fashion last year on January 6th. They held a grand festival on January 6th marking the one-year anniversary, with a full court press, including speeches by the president and vice president and wall-to-wall media coverage portraying Trump and the 74 million people who voted for him as threats to democracy.
Covid rages on, despite Biden’s promises that he would end it. The vaccines he touted and forced on people have proven ineffective in stopping the disease, and now people are told to get vaccinated to reduce the severity of the illness when it strikes. Federal mandates have led to staffing shortages, combined with the mounting number of workers sick with the disease.
Democrats might no longer cry to defund the police. Instead, they do away with bail and let most arrested criminals go free without any charges.
When inflation began roaring, the administration and media experts foretold that it was a temporary blip. That also has been proven false, as it continues unabated thanks to faulty economic policy. And they wonder why crime is rising in Democrat-controlled cities.
They will do anything, except see what is going on and engage in actions that would lead them to remain the majority party by providing leadership in troubling times.
It is fascinating and troubling, and like everything in this world, it is a parable for our own reality and journey through the world, where the yeitzer hora attempts to block us from seeing.
It all depends upon our vision, how we see things.
The one who seeks to lead us to sin knows that if he can paint things a certain way, he can delude us to sin in ways we would never have dreamt of. No person can consider themself safe from the evil designs of the yeitzer, who clouds our vision and then perception of what we are doing, causing us to engage in hurtful and sinful activities.
We know that everything that happens is for Klal Yisroel. From the news, we are to take lessons and improve ourselves. Instead, we discuss the goings-on. This one is a fool, the other one is a misguided narcissist, the third is a murderer, and so on. These things happen for us to learn from them and to improve ourselves, our thoughts and actions, so that we don’t become like them.
For example, when we see how the Left is corrupt and blinded to the truth, we must extrapolate from that not to become as sightless, obtuse and oblivious to the truth as they are.
Seeing involves more than good eyesight. It takes focus, clarity and a passion for truth.
We work hard to maintain proper focus. The moral lives we lead, coupled with Torah study and mitzvah observance, perfect our vision and perception so that we are better able to see things clearly.
“Re’u.” We are encouraged to see and think, to have opinions and insights, to exist not in an echo chamber but on an island where we clarify for ourselves “mah chovaso ba’olamo,” what life is all about. We remain honest to our purpose and are not overwhelmed by what others say and see.
These parshiyos of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Krias Yam Suf introduce us to our destiny, to who we are. But in order to realize it, as we study the parshiyos, we have to keep our eyes open and appreciate the significance and relevance of each posuk.
“Re’u ki Hashem nosan lochem…” Our task is to learn to see what we are being given and what is going on all around us.
So many times, we go wrong because we take certain things for granted and mess up our thought process. Having the right information alone is not enough, for if we do not think, we make mistakes.
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik would ask children riddles to sharpen their minds. For example, he would tell them that there was a blind man who would raise one finger to signal that he wanted to eat. When he wanted to drink, he would raise two fingers. The great Rav Chaim would then ask the children what the blind man did when he wanted to eat and drink.
The children – and most adults – wouldn’t realize that he said the man was blind, because now they were focusing on the question of how many fingers the man should raise. They would forget that the man could speak and hear, and therefore they didn’t think of answering that when he wanted to eat and drink, he would simply say so.
They had all the information they needed to answer the question, but their minds were conditioned to process it incorrectly.
Our egos, our patterns of thought, and the way things have always been done impede us and hamper our thought process.
We think we know everything. We think we understand everything. We may have perfect vision, but if we impair our comprehension with preconceived notions, then we will not be able to come up with the proper response to the questions and problems of the day.
People look at the same sets of facts and figures, yet understand them differently. Everyone sees the same information, but they process them according to their own biases. Where some see bravery, others see cowardice. Where some see love and concern, others see hate and cynicism. Some see freedom fighters, while others see terrorists. The facts don’t change. The perception does. Numbers don’t lie, but people from different backgrounds explain them differently.
People become trapped by the way they see the world and are unable to see things differently than they have been conditioned to, so their thinking is skewed and their reactions are off target. They are encumbered by what they have always done and by what they have been taught, so their predictions are expected and often wrong.
We are infused with the drive to be great, to study Torah yomam volaylah, to seek the truth, to constantly engage in introspection and self-improvement. We never rest in our pursuit of knowledge and excellence. We set high goals for ourselves. We are not locked into anything.
As we learn Torah, our minds are trained not to take anything for granted. We learn a Gemara and think we understand it, and then the Gemara brings a proof disputing what we had thought was the halacha. One Amora concurs and another disagrees. Rashi explains the dispute so carefully and succinctly, and we think we understand the concepts. But then we look in Tosafos and everything is turned upside down. We learn the Rishonim and think that we have a klorkeit. We look up the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch and are satisfied that we understand the whole sugya from beginning to end.
But then we look in the Mogein Avrohom and he brings a Maharshal. We study it and think that now we really have come full circle and got it down pat. But then the Mogein Avrohom asks many questions on him and turns everything around. We are convinced that now we have the sugya. But then we look into other Acharonim and they dispute the Mogein Avrohom, which to us made so much sense. We realize that we understand very little. And we plug deeper, horeving to get a handle on the entire sugya. In this fashion, we plumb the depths of sugya after sugya, daf after daf, masechta after masechta.
We realize that it is only with an open mind, honesty, consistency and hard work that we can even hope to understand anything.
We must not allow ourselves to be misguided, sidetracked, or become angry, sad or depressed. If someone wronged us, we exact revenge by doing good, by excelling in what we do and making the world a better place. We don’t let ourselves be brought down by anything. We retain our faith in Hashem, and when we do, He will save us, much the same as He saved our forefathers as they stood on the shores of the Yam Suf.
We endeavor to put our egos aside and perceive the truth. We do not become entombed in our bubbles of fantasy, blinded and unable to confront reality. In an upside-down world, we retain our ability to sense right from wrong, generosity from avarice, and justice from cruelty. No one can take that away from us, as long as we remember our mantra: “Re’u.”
This week, we suffered the passing of Rebbetzin Tema Kamenetsky, a brilliant woman and a trailblazer in many ways. Eschewing the prevalent culture in that time, she studied at Rebbetzin Kaplan’s fledgling Bais Yaakov. She then took as a chosson a man who would study in Kollel, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, quite an unpopular choice seventy years ago.
She did it because she had good vision, one based on Torah.
As a young Kollel couple they lived very frugally in Lakewood and then for her whole life. She sought nothing for herself other than to support her husband and raise her children in the Torah way. With little fanfare she was steadfast in her mission, moving with her husband to the wilderness of Philadelphia, as Rav Shmuel taught Torah, raised thousands of talmidim and breathed Torah attitudes and perspectives into the city and then the entire country and internationally.
She raised a family of greatness, nurturing her children as they grew, to see things the Torah way and to grow in Torah, avodah and midos tovos. Her dedication to her husband was boundless as she stood by his side, traveling with him and tending to him. An early adherent of living a healthful lifestyle she lovingly treated her husband and family to regiments of healthy foods and vitamins. She knew that a healthy body can help to better serve Hashem, grow in Torah and help countless people surmount the up and downs of life.
She also taught and supported people in Yiddishkeit, health issues and life in general. She always had a nice word and thoughts to offer in her most humble manner. She saw the good and the truth and did her best to attain them. She succeeded in all she did because she had proper vision and yearned to see the positive and affect people in a positive way.
Her emunah, bitachon and devotion to Torah guided and sustained her in all situations. She was short in stature but tall and strong as she epitomized what it means to live a proper life of halacha, tzinius and mussar.
She set an example for all to follow.
The parsha ends with our first encounter with our archenemy, Amaleik. He and his progeny will always be around, together with the Soton and the yeitzer hora, until the coming of Moshiach, seeking to entrap and destroy us. We prevail by keeping our eyes and hearts focused in – and guided by – Torah and seforim kedoshim; and stay away from nonsense and those who purvey it. See things through the eyes of Torah! See things the way your rabbeim, grandfathers and grandmothers did.
By doing so, we will merit to speedily see the great day we all await.