Art by Phillip RatnerCommentaryby Ariel Ben Avraham
“It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go (beshalach
), that G-d did not lead them (by) way of the land of the Philistines that was near, because G-d said: ‘Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt’.” (Exodus 13:17).
It is a natural reaction of our sense of survival to avoid anything that threatens our life, but in the context of this verse it is about our reaction against leaving the “comfort zone” created by ego’s fantasies and illusions. Our oral tradition tells that the Tribe of Menashe decided to leave Egypt on their own without Moses’ leadership, and they were decimated when caught in their way to the Promised Land through the land of the Philistines. This means that it is not enough to have a clear sense of spiritual destination, but to cleave always to the guidance of our constant awareness of the will of the Creator, which Moses represents. The war against the illusions derived from gross materialism is indeed permanent, and in order to win all the battles the most important weapon is to be aware of Love’s ways and attributes in all aspects of our life, because they protect us always: “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to cause it to lead them on the way, and at night in a pillar of fire to give them light, (that they may) travel day and night. He did not move away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire at night before the people.” (13:21-22).
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will be glorified through Pharaoh and through his entire force, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord. And they did so.” (14:4). The complete glorification of our Creator certainly encompasses every aspect of consciousness, and ego’s powerful driving force is included; because they all have to sense and experience in their own dimension who is the Ruler of all. Once we sense and experience G-d’s Love in every layer of our existence, we have to embrace Him and trust Him as the true Ruler: “Moses said to the people: ‘Don’t be afraid! Stand firm and see the Lord’s Redemption that He will wreak for you today, because the way you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity.” (14:13); because with the awareness of Love in our entire consciousness we will never see again material illusions. When Love leads, our consciousness quietly follows without questioning His will, because “The Lord will fight for you, but you shall remain quiet.” (14:14). Again this is reaffirmed: “(…) and I will be glorified through Pharaoh, and through all his force, through his chariots, and through his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I will be glorified through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.” (14:17-18).
“And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, the entire force of Pharaoh coming after them into the sea; not even one of them survived. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the water was to them like a wall from their right and from their left.” (14:28-29). The waters in this sense represent the understanding of separating our clear intention to follow Love’s ways from ego’s fantasies and illusions, which are drowned in this new awareness brought by “letting go and letting G-d”: “And Israel saw the great hand, which the Lord had used upon the Egyptians, and the people were in awe of the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in Moses, His servant.” (14:31). At this height of awareness (represented by Moses) we are finally completely conscious of the Creator’s living presence in our life.
“Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe. And with Your great pride You tear down those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning wrath; it devours them like straw.” (15:6-7). Once again the Torah reminds us that Love does not cohabit with anything different than His ways and attributes. This is the context in which we understand G-d’s “pride”, “wrath”, “fire” and “jealousy”, because they simply refer to Love’s incompatibility with fantasies, illusions, and negative expressions of human consciousness. And also let’s be aware that this process of cleansing and transformation is always through G-d’s Love: “With Your loving kindness You led the people You redeemed; You led (them) with Your might to Your holy abode.” (15:13). This is one of the essential messages presented in the book “God as Love”, all sustained by the words of the Hebrew Scriptures. Our Divine destiny is to dwell in the Love of our Creator, and be led by Him to His Place: “You shall bring them (the children of Israel: our entire consciousness with its traits and dimensions) and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord; the Sanctuary, O Lord, (that) Your hands founded. The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” (15:17-18); and as we have said in previous commentaries, the Sanctuary (Temple of Jerusalem) represents the highest awareness of our connection with Divine Love.
The following are essential words that are continuously repeated throughout the rest of the Torah, because their message must be permanently present in our consciousness: “And He said: ‘If you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your G-d, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His Commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you; because I, the Lord, heal you.” (15:26). Then it is up to us to choose this constant awareness if want to live in the delights of G-d’s Love.
The portion ends with the admonition to be permanently aware of our constant connection with the Creator of all: “Then Moses built an altar, and he named it ‘The Lord is my Miracle’. And he said: ‘Because there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, a war for the Lord against Amalek from generation to generation.” (17:15-16). Our Sages teach that Amalek represents hesitation, uncertainty, doubt and indecision, and these are the enemy that we are commanded by Love to defeat in every moment of our life. Indecision is what makes us hesitate when choosing between ego’s materialistic desires and Love’s ways and attributes, from where our connection with our Creator depends. Once we empty our awareness from doubt, our choice will be clear between darkness and Light.