By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
This week’s parsha of Beshalach is associated with the parting of the sea at Kriyas Yam Suf, where the Jewish people completed their departure from Mitzrayim. It was there that they beheld the splendor of Hashem, as never seen before. It was there that they realized the words of Hashem, “lokachas lo goy mikerev goy,” not only achieving independence from Mitzrayim, but becoming a nation in the process.
Coupled with this theme is that of “re’iyah,” the ability to see, and through their vision perceive the truth and appreciate reality.
The posuk (Shemos 14:30-31) states that at the shores of the Yam Suf, “Vayar Yisroel,” the people saw and thought that they beheld the ultimate judgment and precision of Hashem’s rule. First, “vayar Yisroel es Mitzrayim meis al sefas hayom,” they saw the Mitzrim lying dead on the banks of the sea, and then “vayar Yisroel es hayod hagedolah asher asah Hashem b’Mitzrayim,” they appreciated the might of the hand of Hashem. And then “vayiru ha’am es Hashem vaya’aminu baHashem uveMoshe avdo, they feared Hashem and believed in Him and His servant Moshe.”
As they became a nation, they saw the truth and appreciated it, and it caused them to fear and believe.
However, shortly thereafter, the people veered from Hashem, as they complained that they didn’t have enough food to sustain them in the desert. Hashem sent them slov birds in the evening so they would have meat, and in the morning, He sent them a type of food coated with protective dew.
The posuk (ibid. 16:15) states that in the morning, when this food was spread out for them to eat, “Vayiru Bnei Yisroel,” the Jewish people saw the food and asked each other what it was. They called it monn. Again, we encounter the word “re’iyah,” seeing. This time, they saw something they didn’t understand, so they turned to Moshe, who explained to them what they had seen. They followed his instructions and were blessed. They were satiated with monn for the rest of their sojourn in the desert.
Moshe told them that it was the food that Hashem promised to send them so that they would have what to eat. He told them how to gather it. “Vayaasu kein Bnei Yisroel,” they followed Moshe’s instructions, and “lo hechsir ish,” nobody was lacking, for each person received what they needed.
Further in the parsha (ibid. 16:29), we encounter “re’iyah” again, when Moshe admonishes the Jewish people about Shabbos. He says, “Re’u ki Hashem nosan lochem es haShabbos – See that Hashem has given you the day of Shabbos.”
Re’u. See. See the Shabbos. See that Hashem gave you Shabbos. Use your eyes, use your gift of vision, and you can understand and appreciate the gift of Shabbos. See that you are getting a double portion of monn on Friday (Rashi), and see that no monn falls on Shabbos. Observe and you will be observant.
The truth of Shabbos is plainly evident. Our people were conceived in a parsha of “re’iyah.” We are blessed with vision, on a basic level as others do, but beyond that we have the ability to perceive what is beneath the surface, comprehending what is really transpiring and how it relates to us.
When we don’t comprehend what we see, we turn to the Torah for guidance.
In times when there are smokescreens that blind the eye from seeing what is going on and, more importantly, block us from understanding events, we don’t have to feel lost. We can turn to the Moshes of the generation.
Witness what is currently going on in this country, the strange, unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves. Take a step back and contemplate what has happened here. A populist who was given no chance of winning, beat out seventeen professional, experienced politicians and ascended to the highest office in the land.
He promised to drain the Washington swamp of entrenched career politicians and return the government to the people. He was elected on promises to strengthen the country’s borders, keep out dangerous people, nominate constitutionalist justices for vacant court positions, reform the punishing tax code, do away with restrictive regulations, replace the disastrous health care system instituted by his predecessor, and act in other ways in concert with the will of the majority of hardworking, taxpaying Americans.
The people who voted for him are proud of the way he talks, what he says, and what he does. They are thrilled that he is keeping his promises and doing his best to make America great again. They look on as he works, works, and works, delivering on his promises one after another. They realize that he doesn’t always talk or act the way more seasoned or polished politicians do, but they accept it as part of the package.
The party that went down to failure in losing to a man they viewed as a clown is incensed. They are sickened that they were defeated by the man they outspent and worked so hard to defeat. They were so sure that they would beat him in the election that they failed to plan for the possibility of his victory.
He had no pollsters, no advisors, no political consultants, and no political fundraising machine. Not only that, but he spoke rashly, undiplomatically, and without regard to political correctness. Even mainstream Republicans didn’t want to see him elected. He had the entire media aligned against him, coupled with the culture gurus and Republican never-Trumpers.
With everything stacked against him, Trump won. Not only was he elected, but upon entering office, he did what he said he was going to do. He worked from early in the morning until late at night, not only dismantling the previous administration’s agenda, but redoing the very way government works and presidents act. He didn’t play by the usual clubby rules. He spoke strongly and waved a stick and tweeting-phone. The media slammed him and Democrats were reduced to tears, for as hard as they tried to stymie him, they failed. He ignored them and mocked them, and found strong, capable people to run the government and its offices.
He tapped into something others didn’t see. He sensed that the people across America hungered for change and had enough of being mistreated by so-called judges, as well as their local senators, congressmen, legislators and everyone else associated with any type of power. Just as he detested it, he realized that everyone else who doesn’t benefit directly from the system would be prepared to topple it, if only there were a way.
People are loath to be the lonely guy fighting city hall, but if a person stands up to the big-shots and the little guy figures he has nothing to lose by supporting the insurgent, he will. And multitudes of little guys across the country supported him. They were proud of him. They flocked to his rallies. They ignored everything they were being told and supported the man who said he was going to break the oppressive might of big brother.
Everywhere, except in the big liberal cities and the extreme edges of the country, home to doctrinaire liberals, he won and his party carried the day, sweeping out mayors and dogcatchers who didn’t hew to his campaign.
The minority party and its followers are prisoners of their own self-imposed bubble. They believe what they write, say and read in their echo chambers, and as they do so, they remain out of touch to the thinking of the majority. When they lost, they descended into a state of shock from which they have not been able to recover.
Instead of a rational introspection of what went wrong and how to rectify it, they remain in denial that anything so right could overtake their leftist truths. They believe that the new president is inept, that he won by illegitimate means, and that he cannot be viewed or treated as the leader of the country.
Instead of recognizing the truth, they descend into lunacy and employ tactics doomed to prolong the tailspin of the defeated. They act irrationally as they scream, cry, burn and boycott normal government action. Charles Schumer, the great tactician and political leader, leads chants of “Dump Trump” at political rallies, as if that is the responsible and constitutional way of dealing with a new president from the opposition party. People who speak of tolerance, openness and working together show themselves to be consumed by hate and totally intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them.
They will do anything, except focus inward and draw the conclusions that would force them to change their ways and engage in actions that would lead them to become a majority party once again.
It is fascinating and troubling, and like everything in this world, it is a parable for our own reality and journey through the world, where the yeitzer hora attempts to block us from seeing.
The one who seeks to lead us to sin knows that if he can paint things a certain way, delusion and negius will take over. Like what is occurring to the liberal left in this country, a person can descend into an abyss of anger, accusations and deception, leaving him no way out.
Seeing involves more than good eyesight. It takes focus, clarity and a passion for truth.
The left drowns in its own rhetoric while we work hard to keep our focus. The types of moral lives we lead, coupled with Torah study and mitzvah observance, perfect our vision so that we are better able to see things clearly.
“Re’u.” We are encouraged to see and think, to have opinions and insights, to exist not in an echo chamber but on an island where we clarify for ourselves “mah chovaso be’olamo,” what life is all about. We remain honest to our purpose and are not overwhelmed by what others say and see.
These parshiyos of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Krias Yam Suf introduce us to our destiny, to who we are. But in order to realize it, as we study the parshiyos, we have to keep our eyes wide open and appreciate the significance and relevance of each posuk.
“Re’u ki Hashem nosan lochem…” Our task is to learn to see what we are being given and what is going on all around us.
So many times, we go wrong because we take certain things for granted and mess up our thought process. Having the right information alone is not enough, for if we do not think we make mistakes.
Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib ben Gittel Faiga Shteinman would recount that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik asked children riddles to sharpen their minds. He would tell them of a blind man who would raise one finger to signal that he wanted to eat. When he wanted to drink, he would raise two fingers. The great Rav Chaim would then ask the children what the blind man did when he wanted to eat and drink.
The children – and most adults – wouldn’t realize that he said the man was blind. He didn’t say that he was dumb and unable to speak, so when he wanted to eat and drink, he would simply say so.
They had all the information they required, but their minds were conditioned to process it incorrectly.
Our egos, our patterns of thought, and the way things have always been done impede us and hamper our thought process.
We think we know everything. We think we understand everything. We may have perfect vision, but if we impair our comprehension with preconceived notions, then we will not be able to come up with the proper response to the questions of the day.
People look at the same sets of facts and figures yet understand them differently. Everyone sees the same information, but they process them according to their own biases. Where some see bravery, others see cowardice. Where some see love and concern, others see hate and cynicism. Some see freedom fighters, others see terrorists. The facts don’t change. The perception does. Numbers don’t lie, but people from different backgrounds explain them differently. If you doubt this, just look at polls that concern Donald Trump.
People become trapped by the way they perceive the world and are unable to see things differently than they have been conditioned to, so their thinking is skewed and their reactions are off target. They are encumbered by what they have always done and by what they have been taught, so their predictions are expected and often wrong.
We were infused with the drive to be great, to study Torah day and night, to seek the truth, to constantly engage in introspection and self-improvement. We never rest in our pursuit of knowledge and excellence. We set high goals for ourselves. We are not locked into anything. As we learn Torah, our minds are trained not to take anything for granted. We learn a Gemara and think we understand it, and then the Gemara brings a proof disputing what we had thought was the halacha. One Amora concurs and another disagrees. Rashi explains the dispute so carefully and succinctly, and we think we understand the concepts. But then we look in Tosafos and everything is turned upside down. We realize that we understand nothing. And so it goes. In this fashion, we plumb the depths of sugya after sugya, daf after daf, masechta after masechta.
We realize that it is only with honesty, consistency and hard work that we can even hope to understand anything.
We deal with the world the way it is, not the way we want it to be. We do not create alternative universes in which to operate, but rather deal forthrightly with the facts. We do not become entombed in our bubbles of fantasy, blinded and unable to confront reality. In an upside-down world, we retain our ability to sense right from wrong, generosity from avarice, and justice from cruelty. No one can take that away from us, as long as we remember our mantra: “Re’u.”
The parsha ends with our first encounter with our arch-enemy, Amaleik. He and his progeny will always be there, until the coming of Moshiach, seeking to ensnare and destroy us. We stay ahead of him by keeping our eyes and hearts focused heavenward, until that great day we all wait for, which shall come speedily in our day.