In Parshat Beshalach, the Torah presents us with the details of the redemption of the Israelites who had been fleeing from Egypt. Once they safely reached the other side of the Red Sea, together with Moses, they sang the Az Yashir, the Song of Moses and within it, they declared,
“Zeh keili v’anveihu,” – this is my God and I will glorify Him. (Shemot 15:2.)
Each and every individual made that statement and our sages teach that from here we realise that all of the Israelites at that moment reached the greatest heights of prophecy – equal even to the prophecy of Ezekiel. They had exclaimed, “Zeh keili,” – as though they were pointing, as if to say, we can actually feel the presence of God right now Who is communicating directly with us.
But Rashi, bringing the midrash of the Mechilta, adds a further point. Rashi says that, what each individual was actually saying at that time was,”Lo ani techilat hakedusha,” – “This holiness did not start with me.” As great as I am at this moment, and as wonderful as my prophecy is, I’m not really the one who’s responsible for it. And we learn this from the continuation of the verse:
“Elokei avi v’aromemeihu,” – “God is the God of my father and I will exalt him.”
Respect was given to a previous generation who sowed the seeds for that great moment to happen.
I believe that the message here is of great relevance for us in our times. What I’m seeing, is that within our sophisticated, fast moving and highly creative society there is less respect today for parents and grandparents than what we saw in previous generations.
But from Parshat Beshalach we learn that actually, just the opposite should be the case. The more we are achieving, the more indebted we should feel to those who preceded us. The greater our creativity and achievements, the more we need to look back and to thank parents, grandparents and great grandparents because from Parshat Beshalach we learn that if not for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.