Beshallach (5777)

Drash Cards for Beshallach (5777)

by Marc Mangel

  • Three part drash today.
  • Part 1: In addition to being TuB’shevat today is Shabbat Shira – known as the Shabbat of the birds. Chazal teach that we should all feed birds on this Shabbat – deep in the midst of winter (this especially makes sense in Russia, Poland, or Chicago).
  • Rosie Saltsmann in A Portion of Kindness says that every day was ShabbatShabbat Shira is a lesson in kal vachomer — particularly it teaches us both gratitude for nature and kindness to other living beings.
  • The Sefat Emet connects Shabbat Shira and Shabbat of the birds through psalm 124, v 7 “Our soul has escaped like a bird out of the hunters’ trap”


  • Part 2: We nearly began reading today with “Moses took the bones of Joseph” (Ch 13, v 19).
  • Chazal teach that the word for bones is the same as for essence – Moses was taking the essence of Joseph, to help him lead the Jewish people.
  • M’pi Hakadosh says that the essence of Joseph was repaying the bad that his brothers did to him with good, and that this was a role model for Moses dealing with the Israelites. “His goal was to change Bnei Yisraeal’s stubbornness with patience, forgiving, and with goodness”.
  • Essence brings us to Jay’s Beshallach challenge of a few years ago – to determine what is essential for our lives. I mentioned this challenge to the Rabbi of Chabad of FIU –last Shabbat and he told me this story:
  • Two letters from father to children, one before burial, one at shiva. Before burial: “bury me in my socks”. At Shiva: “now that you know you cannot take even a pair of socks with you”.


  • Part 3: I want to examine the nature of Pharaoh leading up to the event at the sea.
  • We already know a lot about him: He has no memory of how Joseph saved Egypt from starvation and was rewarded by allowing his relatives – refugees from starvation – to come to Egypt from Canaan.
  • But Pharoach sees the Israelites are different from Egyptians so enslaved them and then tried to exterminate them.
  • Today, we learn two more characteristics about him, the ones responsible for his ultimate destruction.
  • “When the King of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers had a change of heart” (Ch 14, v 5). The Chazal struggle to interpret what caused Pharaoh to change his mind — Nachsoni gives 12 interpretations. Whatever the reason, Pharaoh decides according to the last thing said to him.

He then “harnessed his chariot and convinced his people to go with him” (Ch 14, v6). He rallied the masses, and lead them to destruction.

  • Unable to understand consequences of his actions, Pharaoh and his army rush into the seabed and have God lock “the wheels of their chariots so they moved forward with difficulty”” (Ch 14, v 25) and drown in the sea

In summary, today we learn three things from the Torah portion:

  • Do something to appreciate nature – the birds and the trees — that is so easily lost.
  • Remember what is essential for your life and to treat people with patience, forgiving, and goodness.
  • Remember not to rush into decisions, and to think about consequences of those decisions before acting.
  • These are powerful lessons.