Now When [Pharaoh] Let [the People] Go
Exodus 13:17−17:16
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

English translation of the Torah portion Bshalach in the Book of Exodus13:17] Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18] So God led the people round about, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.

Now the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt. 19] And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”

20] They set out from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, at the edge of the wilderness. 21] The Eternal went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night. 22] The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

14:1] The Eternal One said to Moses: 2] Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3] Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are astray in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.” 4] Then I will stiffen Pharaoh’s heart and he will pursue them, that I may gain glory through Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Eternal.

And they did so.

5] When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers had a change of heart about the people and said, “What is this we have done, releasing Israel from our service?” 6] He ordered his chariot and took his force with him; 7] he took six hundred of his picked chariots, and the rest of the chariots of Egypt, with officers in all of them. 8] The Eternal stiffened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he gave chase to the Israelites. As the Israelites were departing defiantly, 9] the Egyptians gave chase to them, and all the chariot horses of Pharaoh, his riders, and his warriors overtook them encamped by the sea, near Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon.

10] As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Eternal. 11] And they said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? 12] Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?” 13] But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the Eternal will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. 14] The Eternal will battle for you; you hold your peace!”

15] Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16] And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground. 17] And I will stiffen the hearts of the Egyptians so that they go in after them; and I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his warriors, his chariots and his riders. 18] Let the Egyptians know that I am the Eternal, when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots, and his riders.”

19] The angel of God, who had been going ahead of the Israelite army, now moved and followed behind them; and the pillar of cloud shifted from in front of them and took up a place behind them, 20] and it came between the army of the Egyptians and the army of Israel. Thus there was the cloud with the darkness, and it cast a spell upon the night, so that the one could not come near the other all through the night.

21] Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and the Eternal drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, 22] and the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23] The Egyptians came in pursuit after them into the sea, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and riders. 24] At the morning watch, the Eternal looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25] [God] locked the wheels of their chariots so that they moved forward with difficulty. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Eternal is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26] Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians and upon their chariots and upon their riders.” 27] Moses held out his arm over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state, and the Egyptians fled at its approach. But the Eternal hurled the Egyptians into the sea. 28] The waters turned back and covered the chariots and the riders—Pharaoh’s entire army that followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29] But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30] Thus the Eternal delivered Israel that day from the Egyptians. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea. 31] And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the Eternal had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the Eternal; they had faith in the Eternal and in God’s servant Moses.

15:1] Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Eternal. They said:

I will sing to the Eternal, for He has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

2] The Eternal is my strength and might;

He is become my deliverance.

This is my God and I will enshrine Him;

The God of my ancestors, and I will exalt Him.

3] The Eternal, the Warrior—

Eternal One is His name!

4] Pharaoh’s chariots and his army

He has cast into the sea;

And the pick of his officers

Are drowned in the Sea of Reeds.

5] The deeps covered them;

They went down into the depths like a stone.

6] Your right hand, Eternal One, glorious in power,

Your right hand, Eternal One, shatters the foe!

7] In Your great triumph You break Your opponents;

You send forth Your fury, it consumes them like straw.

8] At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up,

The floods stood straight like a wall;

The deeps froze in the heart of the sea.

9] The foe said,

“I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil;

My desire shall have its fill of them.

I will bare my sword—

My hand shall subdue them.”

10] You made Your wind blow, the sea covered them;

They sank like lead in the majestic waters.

11] Who is like You, Eternal One, among the celestials;

Who is like You, majestic in holiness,

Awesome in splendor, working wonders!

12] You put out Your right hand,

The earth swallowed them.

13] In Your love You lead the people You redeemed;

In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode.

14] The peoples hear, they tremble;

Agony grips the dwellers in Philistia.

15] Now are the clans of Edom dismayed;

The tribes of Moab—trembling grips them;

All the dwellers in Canaan are aghast.

16] Terror and dread descend upon them;

Through the might of Your arm they are still as stone—

Till Your people cross over, Eternal One,

Till Your people cross whom You have ransomed.

17] You will bring them and plant them in Your own mountain,

The place You made to dwell in, Eternal One,

The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands established.

18] The Eternal will reign for ever and ever!

19] For the horses of Pharaoh, with his chariots and riders, went into the sea; and the Eternal turned back on them the waters of the sea; but the Israelites marched on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

20] Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, picked up a hand-drum, and all the women went out after her in dance with hand-drums. 21] And Miriam chanted for them:

Sing to the Eternal, for He has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

22] Then Moses caused Israel to set out from the Sea of Reeds. They went on into the wilderness of Shur; they traveled three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23] They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; that is why it was named Marah. 24] And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25] So he cried out to the Eternal, and the Eternal showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet.

There [God] made for them a fixed rule; there they were put to the test. 26] [God] said, “If you will heed the Eternal your God diligently, doing what is upright in God’s sight, giving ear to God’s commandments and keeping all God’s laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the Eternal am your healer.”

27] And they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there beside the water.

16:1] Setting out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2] In the wilderness, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3] The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Eternal in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, when we ate our fill of bread! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death.”

4] And the Eternal One said to Moses, “I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion—that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not. 5] But on the sixth day, when they apportion what they have brought in, it shall prove to be double the amount they gather each day.” 6] So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “By evening you shall know it was the Eternal who brought you out from the land of Egypt; 7] and in the morning you shall behold the Presence of the Eternal, because [God] has heard your grumblings against the Eternal. For who are we that you should grumble against us? 8] Since it is the Eternal,” Moses continued, “who will give you flesh to eat in the evening and bread in the morning to the full—because the Eternal has heard the grumblings you utter—what is our part? Your grumbling is against the Eternal, not against us!”

9] Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community: Advance toward the Eternal, who has heard your grumbling.” 10] And as Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned toward the wilderness, and there, in a cloud, appeared the Presence of the Eternal.

11] The Eternal One spoke to Moses: 12] “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Speak to them and say: By evening you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; and you shall know that I the Eternal am your God.”

13] In the evening quail appeared and covered the camp; in the morning there was a fall of dew about the camp. 14] When the fall of dew lifted, there, over the surface of the wilderness, lay a fine and flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15] When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”—for they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “That is the bread which the Eternal has given you to eat. 16] This is what the Eternal has commanded: Each household shall gather as much as it requires to eat—an omer to a person for as many of you as there are; each household shall fetch according to those in its tent.”

17] The Israelites did so, some gathering much, some little. 18] But when they measured it by the omer, anyone who had gathered much had no excess, and anyone who had gathered little had no deficiency: each household had gathered as much as it needed to eat. 19] And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20] But they paid no attention to Moses; some of them left of it until morning, and it became infested with maggots and stank. And Moses was angry with them.

21] So they gathered it every morning, as much as each one needed to eat; for when the sun grew hot, it would melt. 22] On the sixth day they gathered double the amount of food, two omers for each; and when all the chieftains of the community came and told Moses, 23] he said to them, “This is what the Eternal meant: Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy sabbath of the Eternal. Bake what you would bake and boil what you would boil; and all that is left put aside to be kept until morning.” 24] So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered; and it did not turn foul, and there were no maggots in it. 25] Then Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath of the Eternal; you will not find it today on the plain. 26] Six days you shall gather it; on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”

27] Yet some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found nothing. 28] And the Eternal One said to Moses, “How long will you all refuse to obey My commandments and My teachings? 29] Mark that it is the Eternal who, having given you the sabbath, therefore gives you two days’ food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain in place: let no one leave the vicinity on the seventh day.” 30] So the people remained inactive on the seventh day.

31] The house of Israel named it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers in honey. 32] Moses said, “This is what the Eternal has commanded: Let one omer of it be kept throughout the ages, in order that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out from the land of Egypt.” 33] And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put one omer of manna in it, and place it before the Eternal, to be kept throughout the ages.” 34] As the Eternal had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it before the Pact, to be kept. 35] And the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36] The omer is a tenth of an eifah.

17:1] From the wilderness of Sin the whole Israelite community continued by stages as the Eternal would command. They encamped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2] The people quarreled with Moses. “Give us water to drink,” they said; and Moses replied to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you try the Eternal?” 3] But the people thirsted there for water; and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4] Moses cried out to the Eternal, saying, “What shall I do with this people? Before long they will be stoning me!” 5] Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Pass before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel, and take along the rod with which you struck the Nile, and set out. 6] I will be standing there before you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7] The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and because they tried the Eternal, saying, “Is the Eternal present among us or not?”

8] Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9] Moses said to Joshua, “Pick some troops for us, and go out and do battle with Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand.” 10] Joshua did as Moses told him and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11] Then, whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; but whenever he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12] But Moses’ hands grew heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur, one on each side, supported his hands; thus his hands remained steady until the sun set. 13] And Joshua overwhelmed the people of Amalek with the sword.

14] Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Inscribe this in a document as a reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven!” 15] And Moses built an altar and named it Adonai-nissi. 16] He said, “It means, ‘Hand upon the throne of the Eternal!’ The Eternal will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages.”

Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.