It’s been a few days since I’ve had a chance to find the time to write. So much has happened. As I wrote, He did this terrible thing as he had told me he would, and struck down in the night all the first born sons of the Egyptians.
Soldiers arrived in the middle of the night and dragged me and Ari to the palace. Pharaoh could not even look me in the face. “Go!” he said. “Get out! And take everything you have with you.” And then he made the strangest request – that we ask G”d to also bring a blessing upon him. Pharaoh was asking his slaves for a blessing. Oh, how mighty our G”d is! Or is that how wimpy is Pharaoh and his gods? Or is that just Pharaoh hedging his bets? I never know how sincere he is, especially with G”d meddling with his thoughts.
Let me tell you, getting this group organized and on the road was no picnic. Details, details, details. We were literally on our way out the city gates when a group of elders stopped me shouting “The Bones! The Bones! We have to take the bones!” Oh, great, I thought, another delay. “What bones,” I asked. “Why, Joseph’s bones, of course. He was promised his bones would be taken home, as he did for his father Jacob.” I resisted the urge to say out loud my thought that Joseph was the one who had connived his way into this whole mess in the first place, but I figured I’d better not upset the elders. Besides, I guess I must be a distant relative myself.
But it wasn’t just the bones. You’d think after centuries in slavery they’d be in a hurry to leave. But no. They were so brow-beaten that mustering energy and pride was difficult. As usual, He must have been listening to my thoughts, for He told me that we shouldn’t head north, lest the people fear they’ll run into the Philistines. So he told me to take them towards the Sea of Reeds. I have to be honest, diary, I thought for a minute He must be crazy. How are we ever gonna get through there? This was not just any swamp. It was so massive it was like a sea of its own. You couldn’t see through to the other side – all you saw was a horizon filled with reeds. So that’s what we called it – the Sea of Reeds. Yam Suf. But I had seen enough of G”d’s wrath, so I figured I’d better just be a good boy and follow instructions. He’s a cookin’ something up.
It was pretty easy because He led us as a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Pretty hard to miss. Pretty easy for the Egyptians to follow too, I thought silently.
As if on cue, like He’s always doing, reading me mind, He tells me to turn the whole kit and caboodle back towards Pi-hahiroth, next to the swamps, and make camp there. And then He said it yet again, those dreaded words I have really come to dislike. “I’m going to stiffen Pharaoh’s heart.” As if we hadn’t heard that enough times already. What are we-playing pieces in some divine game between a bunch of deities? And it wasn’t enough to stiffen Pharaoh’s heart and make him come after us. He had to make us camp in an obvious place from which escape was unlikely. “Are we all about to be slaughtered?” I wondered. But then I got cocky again, remembering the events of the past few days. “You and what army, Mr. Pharaoh? Your going to take on my G”d? Ha!” I know I shouldn’t have thought that way, and I’ll probably pay for it later, because I know He’s always listening. Oh, well. Gotta stop writing now and get some sleep. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a rough day.
You are just not going to believe this. I can hardly believe it myself. Right now there’s a big party still going on in the camp. Sis has all the women out dancing and singing-they’ll probably be at it all night.
Well, here’s the story. Just like clockwork, the moment some people spotted the Egyptians, a whole bunch of people, including some of those troublemakers like Korach and his gang come running to me in a panic and accuse me of bringing them out here to die. I had to put aside my own personal misgivings and I gave them standard speech number two, and told them He would take care of them. It worked, sort of. But I knew in my own heart I was unsure. He knew, too.
After I had finished placating the crowd I wandered off to my tent, and He said to me “why are you crying out to me?” G”d forbid anyone ever finds this diary and turns it into a book. How is it going to look, after just giving this rousing speech to the people, if G”d says to me “why are you crying out to me?” Heck, if any of the personal stuff in you, dear diary, ever gets out, I don’t think I’m going to be remembered as such a perfect leader. Well, maybe it is better that way. Better people should know that even their leaders aren’t perfect.
Same old same old. That rod again. I was supposed to hold it up and part the waters of the swamp so we could all walk right through and across the swamps. I have to tell you, I had my doubts. Even after all I had seen, this seemed like to much even for Him. But I held my rod up and a strong wind began to blow, and it blew all night, driving the waters apart and leaving a muddy but walkable path between them. I’m not sure where He was during all this, though I had reports that the pillar of fire had moved to our rear and was holding up the Egyptians so we could cross the sea. Good thing, too, because it took some real cajoling to convince the folks to walk through the swamps! Thank goodness for that Nachshon, Aminadav’s kid. Everyone was just standing around, afraid to go forward. The crazy kid steps off a hillock starts wading into the water. He’s about up to his eyeballs when suddenly the winds start driving the water back and the path opens up. A couple of other young men followed Nachshon, and soon everybody was heading across the swamp.
It was freaky. I was so out of it I’m not even sure how I got to the other side, but I did. It took almost the whole night to get everybody through. Those Egyptians were so hopping mad they didn’t even stop to think twice and started heading right into the swamp behind us once their way was clear. “Oy, just great” I though to myself. Well, as you know, I’m never thinking to myself, cause obviously heard me and out of nowhere the Egyptians chariots and horses to move forward, totally mired in the mud, as if the ground had soften after we passed over it. Finally, after all of us were safely across, He told me do the rod thing again. I have to tell you, diary, I was not prepared for what happened then. The waters came rushing back into the swamp, closing the trail on which we had crossed, trapping the Egyptians. Some of them tried to escape, but it looked almost as if an unseen hand was driving them back into the swamp. I swear the waters of the swamp were deeper and more hillocks were underwater than before this all started. In a few minutes it was all over. So many dead. So many drowned. On top of all those who had died during that last plague. It was hideous. I mean, I know they enslaved us for a few centuries, but still-to kill them all like that. He could have just let them go home. I doubt they would have ever bothered us again. I could even hear some of the Egyptians soldiers saying they had better flee home, because our G”d was obviously stronger than their gods. But I guess any G”d who is willing to wipe out a whole bunch of first born sons is liable to do anything. And, now that I stop and think about it, not only did He wipe out their first born sons-but probably most of their other sons, too. Because who else could all those soldiers who came chasing after us with Pharaoh, only to drown in the swamp? Oh, it’s just too painful to think about.
I guess not many people think like I do. That’s the trouble with being so philosophic. And I have lots of baggage. I mean, back when I was still an Egyptian prince, I murdered an overseer who had mistreated slaves. He had it coming, but I still feel guilty about it. Changes your outlook, killing someone. I don’t think anybody but me was even thinking about those poor Egyptians. The people were just dumbstruck. But He sure did accomplish one thing…this time the people were really convinced He was on our side and would always protect us. It might be too much to hope for, but maybe now they’ll follow the instructions He gives me for them without questioning them all the time. We’ll see.
Ari broke me out of my reverie, and brought me back to my sense. “Look, brother, I don’t know what’s troubling you, but just look at the people! You have got to go out their and lead them in a song of praise to Him. They are just blown away by what he just did, and now’s the time to get them all fired up so they’ll be less trouble.” Well, that made sense, so I quickly tried to think of the right words to say and the right melody to sing them to. We hadn’t done much singing in Egypt, so I thought that it would be real appropriate to get everyone to join me in a song of praise. I was having a little trouble when Sis wandered in and asked what I was doing. “You, sing?” she laughed. “With that stutter and that voice?” “Stop making fun of me and help me write something, Sis,” I said. She was always better at this than I was anyway. Try this, she said, and sang a pretty tune with these words: “Sing to G”d for He has been victorious. Horse and driver he has hurled into the waters of the swamp.” “It’s a good start,” I said “but pretty short.” “So finish yourself, smart-aleck,” she said, and stomped out. So I did. I thought of this really great line “Who is like You, G”d, among all those other gods?” I think it was even better than what Miriam wrote, if I must say so myself. It was a pretty good song. Easy to learn, and I taught it to everyone, and then everybody sang it with me. I thought, for dramatic effect, I would refer to the swamp as the Yam Suf, but then I thought it might be even more dramatic if I just called it Hayam, the sea. “Horse and Rider He has hurled in the sea.” Now that sounds dramatic. Nothing wrong with a little spin now and again. Anyhoo, I wrote it all down and I’ll stick it in between your pages here diary, so I can look at it again when I’m older.
Sis must have been awfully jealous at the way everyone loved my song, cause after we were done, she and a bunch of the women started singing and dancing and playing tambourines, just chanting that one original line of hers over and over. What the heck, I figured. Let her have her moment in the sun. Good night, diary.
I haven’t had a chance to write again for a few days. I’ve been busy shepherding this ungrateful bunch. That’s right, you heard me, ungrateful. After the other day, I figured they’d be happy and easy to please. But noooooooooooooo! Just three days later we’re out in the wilderness of Shur and we couldn’t find any water. Oh, there was water at this place called Marah, but it was putrid. “Now we’re going to die of thirst” a bunch of people whined. So I asked Him for a little help and He showed me this branch which he told me to throw in the water and it would purify it. As usual, it worked. Gee, thanks, G”d. At least no Pharaoh’s heart to meddle with here.
A little while later we made it to Elim, where there was lots of water and shade and fruit, and everyone was happy. It was so nice I was even tempted to stay there a while, but I knew we had to press on, so we headed out in the Sin wilderness. Well, after two weeks of walking, our stores had run low, and people starting whining again. So I asked Him for help and he said he would make meat and bread appear. After that sea thing, I figured He’d come through. “But,” He said, there’s a catch.” He said He would make bread fall down from the sky for six days, and everyone was to gather it up, only as much as they needed-except on the sixth day, when they were to gather a double portion, because on the seventh day there would be no bread. He Said He had created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, and we should do likewise out of respect for the effort. Made sense to me. I guess.
As usual, He delivered, and quail appeared for us to eat that evening. Then during the night He made this dew form on these strange little plants, and in the morning it had condensed into this kind of flaky food. Tasted good, too. Ari and I told everyone to gather just what they needed. Naturally, a few were greedy and saved extra, but overnight it rotted. Serves them right!
So for five days we gathered this great food and ate it. On the sixth day we reminded everyone to gather a double portion, but those who had done it the first day were afraid it would rot like it did then. “Oh, would you just stop doubting G”d already,” I told them. Sure enough, the stuff lasted overnight and there was food for all. Even so, a couple of people went out looking for more of this stuff. Naturally, they didn’t find any and I scolded them for their lack of faith. I don’t know who started calling it manna but it doesn’t matter now, because that’s what everyone is calling it. Not a bad name for that stuff. Tastes like cookies dipped in honey. Yummy. I could get used to this stuff. But tomorrow, we have to press on.
Sorry again I haven’t written, but things got busy for a while. First, when we got to Rephidim, the wells were dry and people starting griping. Again! Can you believe them? Such whiners. He must have infinite patience, because I asked Him yet again to help. He told me to touch this rock and make some water come out, and it worked.
Then a scout brought word that Amalek was leading his people to attack us. Oy, that’s all we needed. Between you and me, I wondered if G”d was hardening Amalek’s heart. I didn’t have the nerve to ask, though.
I needed a good commander to fight them off. I’d been noticing one of Nun’s sons, a kid named Joshua. Figured I’d give him a chance. I told him to organize an army and go fight Amalek. He was a little skeptical at first. I thought quickly, and came up with an idea to persuade him. “You go fight,” I said, and I’ll stand up there on the hill with my rod, like I did back at the sea, er, swamp (how quickly we begin to believe our own exaggerations!), and G”d will protect you.” Guess that convinced him, and off he went. Thankfully, He was listening too, and He came through. Joshua had no trouble at all defeating Amalek, even though they fought pretty dirty. So dirty, in fact, that G”d told me to tell Joshua He would blot out the memory of Amalek. (I’m still suspicious – G”d might have made Amalek fight dirtier than he had intended. I wouldn’t put it past Him.)
I am gonna keep my eye on that Joshua kid, He could come in real handy.
Oh, one last thing, diary. I am still pretty worried about the future. He may have promised to wipe out the memory of Amalek, but somehow I think we’re going to run into lots of people like him, over and over again. Probably long after I’m dead, too. So before I go to sleep tonight, I’m going out to built a little altar here to G”d. I’m going to call it “G”d is my sign.” It’ll help remind me and future generations to be on the alert for future Amaleks. I hope we never meet his ilk again. Good night, diary.
Shabbat Shalom to you and yours.
©2013 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
Beshalakh 5772 – Thankful For the Worst
Beshalakh 5771 – Praying That Moshe Was Wrong
Beshalakh 5768 – Man Hu
Beshalakh 5767-March On
Beshalakh 5766-Manna Mania II
Beshalakh 5765-Gd’s War
Beshalach 5763-Mi Chamonu
Beshalach 5762-Manna mania
Beshalach 5761-Warrior Gd