Waiting through the night

Faith and Faithfulness amidst and through a "long night".Then and now.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski ,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski

Torah Portion“Beshalach “Exodus 13:17–17:16

Waiting for the dawn of sunbreak can be a frustrating and depressing experience. The darkness can seem to be a cold, threatening reality. Waiting for those first rays of sunshine that can seem to be just out of reach at times. The classic plaintive cry "Ad Matai - Until When?" has been heard throughout this exile of thousands of years.

Yet it was first heard in Egypt; "So Moshe and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him, 'So said Hashem, the G-d of the Hebrews, How long (AD MATAI) until you humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, and they will worship Me.'"(Exodus 10:3)

This plaintive cry of Ad Matai reverberates in the lives of a nation at times, as it does at times in the lives of individuals.

The Exodus from Egypt was intended to be the lesson for the people of Israel and the world of how to deal with exile challenges, with perseverance and patience. The events of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) remain as the theological root of many of the Torah's commandments .It is also serves as the storehouse of the tools of faith of a people embarking on their long journey through history.

We read of how G-d begins to orchestrate the lessons that His people were meant to learn.


“It came to pass (VaYehi ) when Pharaoh let the people go, that G-d did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because G-d said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt."(Exodus 13:17).

Then we read, as the Egyptians come very dangerously close to the fleeing Israelites, the following ;

“The Egyptians chased after them and overtook them encamped by the sea every horse of Pharaoh's chariots, his horsemen, and his force beside Pi hahiroth, in front of Ba'al Zephon.Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! the Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to Hashem.” (Exodus 14:9-10):

The sound of the thundering hooves charging behind them and the raging sea before them , almost broke the spirit of these newly freed slaves. They cry out their fears;

They said to Moshe, Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Isn't this the thing [about] which we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone, and we will serve the Egyptians, because we would rather serve the Egyptians than die in the desert “ (ibid:11-12)

Moshe steps in to give them strength and encouragement;

“And Moshe said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Hashem, which He will work for you today; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians today, ye shall see them again no more forever. Hashem will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (ibid: 13-14) .

Hashem's response is unique and powerful

"And Hashem said unto Moshe: 'Why are you crying out to Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.'” (ibid 14:15).

G-d’s miracles and blessings are opportunities waiting to be seized. They remain in potential until we mortals, Hashem’s creations, step in to make it happen.

The story seems to have reached its climax and then this..

"Then the angel of God, who had been going in front of the Israelite camp, moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them.And he came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel, and there were the cloud and the darkness, and it illuminated the night, and one did not draw near the other all night long. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord led the sea with the strong east wind all night, and He made the sea into dry land and the waters split."(ibid 14:19-21)

That is to say, the Israelites then waited the whole night before the sea split.

Wouldn’t this moment of G-d’s declaration to Moshe have been the most correct moment for the sea to split? Shouldn’t all the events need to climax at this dramatic instant when Moshe raises his staff?

Yet that did not happen. They waited "all the night"!!

What were they meant to learn from this?

In fact this is not the first time that such a lesson was to be learnt

The first Passover meal in Jewish history was an incredibly special meal. Each Jewish family gathered in Egypt around their family table to celebrate hope and freedom. They sang praises and rejoiced together. Yet, at that Passover meal they were celebrating a redemption that had not yet occurred. They were rejoicing over something that had not yet happened. In fact it would not happen until the long night would be over. It was a meal totally focused on faith and faithfulness.

Faith and Faithfulness amidst and through a "long night".

Yet at this climax at the Reed Sea ,we see a people that felt the enemy crying for revenge behind them and saw the sea raging with strong winds before them and sensed the wilderness was closing in on all sides.

Yet they waited in anticipation all through that night.

That would be an eternal lesson for this people, especially those living in this land of Promise and Challenges.

It will also be an eternal message of faithful patience for all individuals and nations who must struggle through trials and tribulations at points in their own corporate or national journey

That lesson would be to firstly do what needs to be done in the midst of the challenge. "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” ( ibid 14:15). Yet never lose the strength and faith to trust in Hashem, their Creator and to depend on His timing.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Alter Mordechai ben Freda