Welcome to this week’s Parasha (Torah Portion), which is called Veshalach (When He Let Go).
Veshalach (When He Let Go)
· Exodus 13:17–17:16
· Judges 4:4–5:31
· 2 Peter 1
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that YAHUVEH did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for YAHUVEH said, 'Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17)
In last week’s study, after the last and most devastating of the Ten Plagues (Death of the Firstborn), Pharaoh finally relented in letting the Israelites go free.
This week, however, in Parasha Veshalach, Pharaoh changes his mind and races after them to bring them back into slavery.
Thinking they are lost in the wilderness, Pharaoh seemingly traps them against the Red Sea. There is no escape.
But YAHUVEH miraculously splits the waters so that HIS people pass through on dry land, while the Egyptians drown behind them.
In relief and thankfulness to YAHUVEH for this amazing victory over those who wished to enslave them, Moshe (Moses) and the Israelites sing a beautiful song called ‘Shirat haYam’ (שירת הים), (the Song of the Sea). Some also call it ‘Az Yashir Moshe’ (then Moses sang), which are the first words of the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1).
This song is recited daily as part of the ‘Shacharit’ (Morning Prayer service).
It is written in a unique wave or brick-like pattern in the Torah scroll and is recited in regular chant and traditional melodies.
In true humility, this song gives no glory to the leadership of Moses or praise to the people for the faith it took to walk between walls of water, but totally gives the glory and praise to YAHUVEH.
“I will sing to YAHUVEH, for HE is highly exalted. Both horse and driver HE has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)
This song of Moses is, perhaps, also mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) as a song that will be sung by those who defeat the beast in the end times. However, this time they will be singing by the sea of glass instead of the Red Sea and holding harps instead of tambourines:
“Those defeating the beast, its image and the number of its name were standing by the sea of glass, holding harps which YAHUVEH had given them. They were singing the song of Moshe, the servant of YAHUVEH, and the song of the LAMB: ‘Great and wonderful are the things you have done, ELOHIM, GOD of heaven’s armies!’” (Revelation 15:2–3)
Moses’ sister, Miriam, also goes out with the maidens, and they dance for joy with tambourines.
Because of these songs, this week’s Parasha is also called Shabbat Shirah (Sabbath of Singing).
Besides reading the Song of the Sea and the Song of Miriam on Shabbat Shirah, some have the custom of feeding the birds, in honor of the beautiful melodies that they sing and, perhaps, the manna that was found on the ground by the Israelites in this reading.
This is, of course, unusual in that wild birds are generally not fed on the Shabbat; only domesticated birds such as geese and chickens may be fed.
Shabbat should not be broken by feeding animals that can fend for themselves, although there is a responsibility to feed the pets and domesticated animals that are under your care.
Haftarah Reading: The Song of Deborah
Both the Torah portion and the Haftarah (Prophetic Portion) of this week’s study contain victory songs by YAHUVEH’s People.
In the Parasha, the Israelites sing the ‘Song of the Sea’, extolling and honoring ELOHIM for delivering them from Egypt. In the Haftarah, the ‘Song of Deborah’ is sung when ELOHIM gives them victory over general Sisera and the Canaanites.
“Then Deborah and Barak the son of Avinoam sang on that day, saying: ‘When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, bless YAHUVEH! Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to YAHUVEH; I will sing praise to YAHUVEH GOD of Israel.’” (Judges 5:1–3)
In the ‘Song of the Sea’, only ELOHIM receives praise and glory while in the ‘Song of Deborah’, the actions of valiant men and women are also praised.
There are several other connections between the Torah Portion and this Prophetic Portion from the Book of Judges.
In both accounts of Israel’s victories, their enemies had assembled against them in chariots, but YAHUVEH threw their enemies into a panic.
Also, in both the Parasha and Haftarah, Israel’s enemies were swept away in water, and the women celebrated by singing and dancing.
Music is a beautiful, YAHUVEH-given gift to HIS People. Sadly, many in the world misuse this gift to glorify the powers of darkness with vulgarity and promiscuity or the promotion of violence and death. However, we can use the gift of song to praise ELOHIM for HIS goodness and mercy.
Our response to the victories that YAHUVEH brings us in our lives can be freely expressed with rejoicing, with singing and with dancing, just as Moses, Miriam, and Deborah did:
“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and lead your captives away, O son of Avinoam!” (Judges 5:12)
The Long Way Home
The Hebrew word ‘Veshalach’ (בְּשַׁלַּח), the name of this Parasha, means ‘when he sent’.
Pharaoh didn't simply let the people go; he sent the Israelites away.
When he did, YAHUVEH did not lead them on the straightest, most direct route to their Promised Land, which would have taken them through Philistine territory and into certain battle. Instead, HE led them around and through the Red Sea or Yam Suf, literally – Sea of Reeds.
Why didn’t YAHUVEH take them on the quickest route and into battle?
There is a story of a man who purchases a cow and takes her home to produce milk for his family, not to kill her for her meat.
Because the slaughterhouse is on the path to his home, he takes her on a longer, more roundabout route so that she will not smell the blood from the slaughterhouse and try to escape his care.
Similarly, YAHUVEH did not want the Israelites to go through Philistine territory and immediately encounter a war, lest they lose heart in YAHUVEH’s protective care and run back to Egypt.
Likewise, YAHUVEH might not take you on the most direct route to fulfilling your destiny. Instead, HE just might take you out of the way a bit, proving HIS magnificent love for you by parting a sea on the way or lighting your path during a time of darkness.
With that firsthand experience of YAHUVEH’s Presence, your faith will be made stronger to sustain you in the trials that will certainly come to you further down the road.
Still, as with any relationship, it takes more than one great experience with YAHUVEH to know who HE is and to understand HIS character, integrity, and love. So, sometimes the journey to our destiny is more than roundabout; it is the long way.
This truth is evident at the Red Sea. Even though the Israelites experienced walking out of Egypt with the spoils of the land and their firstborn sons still alive, that was not enough to calm their fears for long.
On the Way to the Promised Land
“And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to YAHUVEH.” (Exodus 14:10)