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   by Jacob Solomon

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The Song of Moses on crossing the Red Sea comes to its crescendo with…

Until Your people have passed through, O G-d. Until the people that You made yours have passed through (15:16).

The Hebrew for to pass through is avar. The narrative of this week's parasha relates G-d's splitting of the Red Sea for the Israelites and their passing through it - ad ya-av-vor (from the root avar) on dry land.

The act of 'passing through' was not just being led to safety from the pursuing Egyptians. It also symbolizes something deeper. It is a covenant - a formal agreement, a promise. For within the Torah, there are two other episodes where a such a covenant is made, one with Abraham (before the Exodus) and the other 40 years later, as the Israelites were on the brink of entering the Promised Land.

With Abraham: G-d promised him that the Israelites would eventually get the Land after many years of great suffering. He does it after Abraham divided various animal carcasses and then felt into a deep sleep. A column of smoke and a torch of fire passed (avar) between the two rows of split animal carcasses. G-d promised Abraham that He would give his descendants the Land (c.f. Gen. 15:8-21).

Abraham's job was to prepare the animals for the covenant. G-d did the rest. Remember that this event took place when concept of the 'Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation' (19:6) was in its infancy. Like educating a complete newcomer - infant relative to the situation, G-d told Abraham what to do and what was going be the destiny whilst - metaphorically - he would be growing up.

By the time Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea and out of the grasp of Egypt, Abraham descendants were indeed on the way to become the 'great nation' (Gen. 12:2). But they were a nation in its youth (c.f. Jer. 2:2). They needed assistance - which they got in the miracles at the Red Sea. However, they also had to show commitment. They did by obeying Moses after he told them not to fear the Egyptians, but go ahead: jump into the sea. That was dedication. Following that act of faith, their 'passing between the pieces' (Gen. 15:17) was not as a spectator, where Abraham saw the smoke and the fire passing through - as a child being taught by the parent. In contrast: the Israelites were indeed the smoke and the fire - they were committed participants. They were those that were doing the passing - the act of faith, the act of commitment. Like young people who can be encouraged, but whose final decision of whether to go ahead is their own. The Israelites made that decision based on their act of faith. And by so doing, they became the people He made His: 'Until Your people have passed through, O G-d. Until the people that You made yours (literally, you have acquired) have passed through' (15:16).

On Moses' impending permanent departure forty years later, the Israelites of all ages and social classes were 'standing before G-d… to pass (avar) in the Covenant of loyalty to G-d'. In entering the Promised Land, they passed between 'the walls of the covenant' (c.f. Rashi to Deut. 29:11). Like at the Red Sea, it was the Israelites (not the fire) that did the passing. But unlike the Red Sea there was no miracle involved. The Israelites were acting as adults, making their commitments based on their previous experiences. At that stage driving towards their spiritual maturity.

This principle applies to the bringing up of children. In infancy, the child - no matter how willing - has to be taught. Choices are made for him/her. In youth, a framework has to be made, but the young people have to learn from their own experiences - and be given a chance to fall down and get picked up again - as within the narrative of the Israelites in the desert. And it is the experience of suitably guided childhood and youth which should have prepared for the last stage - when the adult is sufficiently mature to make his or own wise decisions without parental support.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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