We must teach our Children
On the Seventh Day of Passover, we read of the actual departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt, the Egyptian chase after them, the Parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of the Egyptians, and the salvation of Israel. The portion ends with the beautiful Song of the Sea followed by Miriam’s much shorter song of praise. According to tradition, the Children of Israel arrived at the banks of the Red Sea on the 7th day after leaving Egypt – hence the custom to read this portion on the 7th day of Passover. It is an exciting and dramatic reading. Even though we have read this portion many times, we wait with bated breath to witness G-d’s miracle, turning the sea into solid land for the nation to safely cross. The entire congregation stands for the reading of the Song of the Sea, chanted in a beautiful melody, and we imagine ourselves standing on the opposite bank of the Red Sea, safe from the Egyptians at last. It is a truly inspiring and celebratory moment.
One of the most interesting parts of the Song of the Sea is its description of the effect of this miracle on the nations surrounding Israel at the time: “The peoples heard, they tremble, agony grips the dwellers of Philistia. Now are the clans of Edom dismayed, the tribes of Moab – trembling grips them. All the dwellers of Canaan melt with fear.” (Exodus 15:14-15) It is clear that this part of the song is expressed prophetically. There is no way that the Children of Israel knew as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea, what effect this miracle would have on the surrounding nations. And, of course, in ancient times, news would not travel that fast in any case – it would be months before news reached Moab, Philistia, and Canaan.
But the news indeed reached their destination. We learn from Rahab: “I know that God has given the country to you, because dread of you has fallen upon us and all the inhabitants of the land are melting in fear before you.” (Joshua 2:9). The Hebrew word for “melting in fear” is namogu and it is a unique word in the Bible, used only in these two places. The Bible has Rahab quoting Moses, using this unique word, as a way of indicating fulfillment of Moses’ prophetic words.
When God first promised Moses to redeem the Nation of Israel, he mentioned two different objectives for the miraculous process that would ensue:
- In speaking to the Children of Israel through Moses, God declares: “And you will know that I am the Lord your God who has taken you out of the suffering of Egypt” (Exodus 6:7).
- In speaking to Moses, God declares as well: And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and take out the Children of Israel from their midst” (Exodus7:5).
The first objective was to ensure that the Children of Israel themselves understood who God was. The second objective was so that the Egyptians would also realize this. But nowhere is there mention of other nations hearing about these miracles and responding accordingly. We first encounter this idea with the Song of the Sea, an idea which adds so much to the joy and celebration that suffuses that song. We not only thank God for our salvation but we are amazed at the effect that such a miracle would have on the surrounding nations.
Unfortunately, that effect is limited and short-lived. Immediately following the Parting of the Red Sea, the Amalekites attack the nation. This astounding attack is not only morally reprehensible, as the Israelites are just a rag-tag bunch of former slaves posing no threat to anyone. But it is also an affront to God, a statement that miracles are meaningless to the Amalekites. Forty years later, Rahab still remembers the effect of this miracle but her fellow Canaanites do not, and they wage war against the Israelites who enter the land, hopelessly believing they might defeat God’s will.
Let us consider, though, the modern-day effect of God’s miracles today for the People of Israel – the establishment of the State of Israel, the victory of the Six Day War, and the subsequent liberation of Judea and Samaria. Who are the nations who are paying attention and coming to realize who God really is? Unfortunately, very few. But there are millions of modern-day Rahabs amongst us – members of the nations who are sensitive to what God is doing with His people in His land. They are listening to the miracle and acting in accordance with its message – they are standing with Israel because they want to stand with God. Thank you, our wonderful friends from the nations, our Christian friends, who stand with us in wonder at God’s work amongst us.
Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,
Director, US Office