Parshat Beshallach

In this parshah, the Israelites are released from Egypt, but the Pharaoh yet again has a change of mind. At the Sea of Reeds, God performs a miracle: separating the waters, allowing the Israelites to flee from Egyptian chariots. As the chariots follow the Israelites they become trapped in the mud and as the waters return the Egyptians drown.

The first verse we will look at is a topic in Ein Yaakov, which we will discuss during Thursday night Torah Study. The Talmud section covered by Ein Yaakov can be found on Sefaria, Sotah 36b:23 to 37a:6. The link is Sotah 36b (

For Saturday, we will look at the texts below:

Shemot 14:15

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.”


Why do cry out to Me: this teaches us that Moses stood in prayer. Whereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “It is no time now to pray at length, when Israel is placed in trouble.”


Why do you (singular) cry to Me: According to the Sages Hashem is addressing Moshe in specific. Although Scripture does not mention before this that Moshe prayed, apparently it is included in the crying out of Bnei Israel in verse 10. Although Hashem had told him earlier, “I will be glorified through Pharaoh” (14:4), Moshe still did not know how to conduct himself now that they were caught at the edge of the sea with the enemy close behind. Hashem replied, “But why do you cry out as if in distress? Why do you not simply ask Me what to do?”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, 19th century, Poland

One of the disciples of the holy rabbi of Lentshma was once at our rabbi’s. He [the Kotzker] inquired after the health of his rabbi, but added: I love him very much, but why does he cry out to the Holy One to send the Messiah? Why doesn’t he cry out to the descendants of Israel that they should turn in repentance? This is the meaning of [the phrase]: “Why are you crying to Me? Speak to the descendants of Israel!”

When is it appropriate to pray and when to act?

Is there prayer that leads to action?

The last section of the parshah describes the attack of Amalek on the stragglers of the Israelites — the old and vulnerable who cannot move as fast.

Shemot 17:16

The LORD will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages.

Nathan of Breslov, student of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, early 19th century.

The war against Amalek, that is, the war against the inclination [toward evil] is an extremely long war. The essential method for subduing it is by means of self-encouragement, for whatever happens to a person throughout the day of their lives, they should be very strong not to allow themselves to fall into the state of [despair] … from there too you may call and cry out to the Eternal with soulful longing … This is the essence of the way to repentance in which we are encouraged during the holy Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Ten Days of Repentance. And it is the essence of victory in the war in which we are engaged during those days, for whenever people do not allow themselves to be discouraged, but encourage themselves to begin anew each time, they can be called “victors” in the war.

In truth, the war belongs to the Eternal, for it is impossible for a person to be victorious on their own, as our sages have said: “If it were not for the help of the Holy One, [one would not be able to prevail] and as it is said: “The Eternal is at war with Amalek [in every generation]” [Exodus 17:16]. But people are obliged to encourage themselves anew every time so that they do not retreat from this war, nor be discouraged in any way.

This is hinted at in the words of the holy Zohar when it says: “Who is the victor? Whoever holds weapons in their hands [at the end of the battle].” It is clear that we do not see with any certainty who is victorious because this is a very long war indeed: the exile is overpowering, and everyone commits whatever transgressions they commit. Nevertheless, as long as we still hold our weapons in our hands [we may be considered victors], and our main weapon is prayer, as has been explained in other places. As long as we do not discourage ourselves in this battle but still hold on to our weapons, we are certain to be victorious. As long as people encourage themselves with prayer and crying out to God, they are in the general category of those who are victorious in battle, for this is the essence of victory, as stated above.

Here we are told to continue to pray. How do you reconcile this text with the earlier texts about the edge of the Reed Sea?