Parshas Beshalach – My dove, in the clefts of the rock

By Avner Friedmann

We read in the Song of Songs[1]: “My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the nooks of the steps. Show Me your appearance; let Me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is beautiful”. Israel is compared to a dove. When the Jewish people reached the Red Sea, from behind they beheld the vast Egyptian army in hot pursuit and in front they beheld the deep waters of the Red sea. They felt completely boxed in and trapped from every direction.

The Midrash Rabbah and the Holy Zohar[2] explain with a parable. What were the Jewish people comparable to? They were like a dove being pursued by vicious hawk. To escape, the dove flew into the crannies of a rock, but once there, she found a poisonous serpent lurking there. Now, she was completely trapped and had nowhere to turn. She could neither enter the rock, nor turn back. What did she do? She flapped her wings and cried out to her owner, the master of the dovecote, to rescue her. When she turned to him for salvation, he had compassion and recompensed her enemies their due.

This parable relates to the verses of the Parshah as follows: After the Children of Israel left Egypt, Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart[3] and he decided to pursue them. [4]“Pharaoh drew close, the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem…” And immediately after we find[5]: “On that day, Hashem saved Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.”

Both as individuals and as a whole, we tend to seek out HaShem in times of distress rather than in times of tranquility. It is specifically then that we, the Jewish people, pour out our hearts with tearful supplications to Him and cry out from the very depths of our soul. Now, Hashem loves the voice of the children of Israel and He responds to their cry. It is as if He says, “If I had not brought about your distress at the Sea, I would not have heard your voice. Show Me who you turn to in times of trouble and distress. Let Me hear your voice in prayer and supplication.”

A similar phenomenon occurred when the children of Israel suffered the hardships of Egyptian slavery; HaShem heard their cry and immediately responded, as it is written[6]: “And the children of Israel groaned because of the labor and they cried out…G-d heard their moaning, and G-d remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Yaakov”. Immediately after, Hashem said to Moshe[7]: “And now, behold! The outcry of the children of Israel has come to Me and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppressed them. And now, go.  I shall dispatch you to Pharaoh and you shall take My people, the children of Israel out of Egypt.”

Just as it was in Egypt and at the Red Sea, so it has been throughout history. Sometimes, we need “reminders” to help us turn to HaShem. Approximately five hundred years ago Rabbi Chaim Vital, the leading disciple of the Holy Arizal[8] wrote[9]  that in the end of days the Jewish people are destined to be in the “Exile of Yishmael” (the Muslims). This will be the fifth and last exile, which in many ways will be more difficult than the previous four exiles.

The Yishmaelites will desire to erase the name of Israel from the surface of the earth, G-d forbid. Yishmael will cause Israel terrible sufferings, like never before[10] and Israel will come to realize that they have no hope other than to trust in HaShem’s great and glorious Name to save them. This is why Yishmael was called by this name in the first place, because in the future, Israel will cry out to HaShem from the depths of their heart from the oppression of Yishmael’s descendents and “G-d will hear” (Yishma-El). HaShem will respond as he always has when we call out to Him with all our hearts and He will redeem us with the true and complete redemption.

From the above we see the Kabbalistic principal that there must be an awakening below that brings about an awakening above. All we have to do is cry out to HaShem from the depths of our hearts and He will respond in kind as it states[11], “HaShem is close to all who call Him, to all who call Him truly.” Our sages tell us[12] that the heavenly gates of tears are never locked; anyone who cries out to Hashem from the bottom of his heart is guaranteed that his prayer will be heard.

In the Torah Hashem promises us that,[13] “When you are in distress and all these things will have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return unto Hashem your G-d and Hearken to his voice. For Hashem, your G-d is a merciful G-d; He will not abandon you…” May we learn from history and recognize that ultimately, the only one we can lean on is our Father in Heaven![14],  and may we do this soon without any further sufferings and merit that HaShem answers our heartfelt prayers with the true and complete redemption  through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days, Amen.

[1] 2:14.

[2] Rabbah on Song of Songs, and the Zohar Beshalach 47a.

[3] See Beshalach 14:4-5.

[4] 14:10.

[5] 14:30.

[6] Shemot 2:23-25.

[7] 3:9-10.

[8] The leading disciple of the Ariza’l. 1543-1620.

[9] Eitz Hadaat Tov. Interpreting Tehilim 124

[10] See also Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer Perek 30, and Zohar Vaeira 32a.

[11] Psalms 145:18

[12] Berachot 32b.

[13] Vaetchanan 4:29-31.

[14] Sotah 49b.

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