Parashat B'shalah

Moses leads the Israelites into the wilderness after their escape from Egypt. God sends manna to feed them and Amalek attacks the Israelites.

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As they journeyed, the Jews became hungry. They complained to Moses and Aaron, "You brought us into the wilderness to starve."

The Lord spoke to Moses, "By evening you shall eat meat and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread. Then you shall recognize that I, The Lord, am your God."

Food From God

That evening quail appeared and in the morning there was dew all around. When the dew lifted, there was a fine, flaky substance everywhere. "This is food from God," Moses announced, "But only gather what you need to eat, one omer(portion of grain) per person."

When some families gathered extra, they woke up to find their food rotten with maggots. However, on the sixth day, Moses told the Israelites, "God instructs you to gather double the amount of food on the sixth day, for the seventh day is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath of the Lord. The extra you gather will be edible in the morning." And it was.

But there were some Jews who went out to gather food on the Sabbath anyway. They found nothing.

God lamented to Moses, "How long will you refuse to follow My commandments and My teaching? Mark the seventh day as My Sabbath and keep it holy for all generations."

The People Protest

The Israelites named the food "manna" and it tasted like honey wafers. God instructed them to keep one omer of manna in a jar by the Ark of the Testimony for all generations to remember how the Lord fed the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness.

At the next camp, at Rephidim, again, there was no water. The people got angry with Moses.

"Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put God to the test?" retorted Moses to the people. To God, however, Moses says, "What shall I do with these people? A bit more and they will stone me."

God instructs Moses to go in front of the elders of Israel at Horeb and strike a rock to bring water for the people to drink. Moses does so. The place is named Massah and Meribah because the people tested and contended the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord present among us or not?"

At this camp, an enemy, Amalek came to fight with Israel. Moses sent Joshua with an army to do battle against Amalek. Meanwhile Moses stood at the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand. As the fighting began, whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed but whenever he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

But Moses' arms grew heavy. So Aaron and Hur, one on each side, supported Moses' hands until Joshua beat the Amalekites. Moses built an altar on the site knowing that war with Amalek would be present throughout the generations.

Questions For Discussion

1) When God parted the Sea of Reeds, it was a miracle. Can you think of a miracle God performed for you in your life?

2) If you were one of the Israelites with Moses, how would you feel upon seeing the Egyptian army drowned? How do you feel when someone who is your enemy is hurt or defeated?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.