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Parashat Beshalakh / פרשת בשלח

Crop of The Exodus by Joseph James Jacques Tissot


Parashat Beshalakh is the 16th weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle, and the fourth reading of Shemot (“Exodus”). Beshalakh (בְּשַׁלַּח) is Hebrew for When [Pharoh] Let Go and is the second word of the parashah, which begins with a record of the way HaShem led Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) when they left Mitzrayim (Egypt), why, and how.

The parashah continues with a record of HaShem’s instructions to Moshe (Moses) pertaining to the encampment of Bnei Yisrael at Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds; traditionally, “Red Sea”), including His reasons for the instruction, which Bnei Yisrael obeys. The parashah then continues with the aggressive military pursuit of Bnei Yisrael by Pharoh and his servants, and their reasoning for the change of heart.

When Pharoh’s army overtakes them encamped at the Sea, the parashah records Bnei Yisrael’s fearful response. HaShem, however, fights for His people, performing one of His most famous miracles. HaShem thereby demonstrates His ultimate mastery over His creation and gains glory over Pharoh and his army, Bnei Yisrael being saved. Yisrael therefore fears HaShem, and believes in HaShem and in Moshe.

Parashat Beshalakh continues with the words of the song which Moshe and the people sang to HaShem in response to these events, and the song which Miryam sang to the people. After this, the parashah records the miracle that HaShem performed for us in giving us water to drink in the desert, making a pool of bitter waters sweet, followed by a tremendous promise about healing.

The parashah then records how HaShem miraculously feeds us in the wilderness with meat in the evening and with bread in the morning. The parashah also includes Moshe’s first instructions to us pertaining to the Seventh Day, a Shabbat Kodesh La’HaShem (Holy Sabbath to HaShem). Following this, the parashah records how HaShem brings forth water for us to drink from a rock.

The parashah concludes with a record of attack on us by Amalek at Refidim and the results of that attack.

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Torah Portion: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

1st Aliyah: Exodus 13:17-14:8 (14 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Exodus 14:9-14 (6 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Exodus 14:15-25 (11 verses)
4th Aliyah: Exodus 14:26-15:26 (32 verses)
5th Aliyah: Exodus 15:27-16:10 (11 verses
6th Aliyah: Exodus 16:11-36 (26 verses
7th Aliyah: Exodus 17:1-16 (16 verses)
Maftir: Exodus 17:14-16 (3 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):

Traditional Ashkenazi Haftarah: Judges 4:4 – 5:31
Traditional Sephardic Haftarah: Judges 5:1 – 5:31

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