Jewish Potentiality- Beshalach 5783
In our weekly Torah portion, the Meor Einayim teaches us the role of awareness (Da’at) in overcoming life’s challenges. We learn how cultivating proper awareness of the Divine source of life can positively impact the way we confront challenges.
Long before the scientific research on mindfulness, his teachings showed us how awareness translates into the body and impacts what happens to us.
Summary of the weekly Torah portion (Parasha)
Parasha Beshalach describes the radical transition of the Israelites from slavery to freedom- and the challenges that come with it.
It opens with the dramatic episode of Pharaoh setting them free, then regretting it and chasing them with his army, and the epic miraculous scene of God splitting the Sea of Reeds.
Once in the desert, the Israelites face their first challenges as free people: thirst, hunger, tiredness, and doubt attack them, as well as a new enemy, the Amalekites.
But the Divine presence is still with them.
They are Guided by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud during the day, fed by manna -the miraculous food from the sky and quenched by water from a rock.
The Parasha ends with a military confrontation with the Amalekites.
Moses stands on top of the hill overlooking the battle, and every time he lifts his arms, Israel prevails until their ultimate victory.
According to the Meor Einayim, this scene can be read as a representation of many of our own battles in life.
Like in his previous readings in Exodus (Shemot), he will focus on the concept of Da’at- awareness to explain how awareness plays a key role in our capacity to overcome life’s challenges.
The power of collaboration
Oddly, the Meor Einayim opens his commentary with the ending of the Parasha, the battle with the Amalekites, focusing on Exodus 17.11
“It came to pass that when Moses would raise his hand, Israel would prevail, and when he would lay down his hand, Amalek would prevail.”
וְהָיָ֗ה כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרִ֥ים משֶׁ֛ה יָד֖וֹ וְגָבַ֣ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְכַֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר יָנִ֛יחַ יָד֖וֹ וְגָבַ֥ר עֲמָלֵֽק:
As if to highlight Mose’s humanness, the next verse adds that he was getting tired. While Joshuah and the men were fighting down in the valley, Moses’ hands were growing “heavy.”
So Aharon and Hur helped him by supporting his arms and helping him sit, so he could keep his arms up until the eventual victory of the Israelites.
This can teach us something important about our own victories in life:
It’s easier to win together.
Be it our life partners or our colleagues at work, we can all use the help and partnership of others to overcome life’s challenges, big or small.
And this is part of the beauty of being human: when we recognize that we aren’t enough and add our strengths, we can build victories together.
Awareness as Contact With the Divine
The Meor Einayim then refers to an old Talmudic reading of the scene:
“Is it really Moses’ hand making or breaking the battle? Or is it rather the Israelites looking up and down?”
According to the Hasidic Master, the answer is both.
He starts his explanation by summoning again the concept of Da’at (awareness), which he’s been developing throughout the book of Shemot.
“We know that the essence of human worship of our Creator lies in awareness (da'at). It is by becoming aware, by understanding, and by true apprehension of the Creator that we come to serve.”
What is the connection between awareness and Moses’ raising his arms?
What is the connection between Moses’ arms and the gaze of the Israelites?
According to the Meor Einayim, from a spiritual perspective, these are all one.
He suggests that the main point of our spiritual work is awareness.
By cultivating proper awareness and knowledge of the divine, we cultivate our connection with the infinite source of life.
This awareness, according to the Meor Einayim, is divided into two primordial emotions: love and awe.
By knowing (i.e., being aware of) the Divine source of life, we come to both love and revere it.
In the Kabbalistic (mystical) view, love, and awe represent “the cosmic arms”, and Moses represents the awareness (Da’at) of all of the Israelites.
So, according to the Meor Einayim, what made the Israelites look upward was their elevated consciousness, including their notion of love and awe.
There is a deep message of truth and empowerment here:
Our gaze reflects on our consciousness. When we look up and stay present, we embody our capacity to stand up for what we believe in.
However, when we turn our gaze down, we express and embody sadness, discouragement, and fear.
Looking up means facing life and expressing our vision and intentionality, and our body records and translates this.
When we are present, we can lift our gaze up. When we lift our gaze, our body is energized, almost as if we were reprogramming our consciousness.
Then we earn the confidence to ask for help and to use the resources that are there while doing our part to win our battles.
In commenting on the battle with the Amalekites, the Meor Einayim reminds us of two very old truths:
We are more likely to end up victorious when collaborating.
And that our story will always depend on our capacity to be awake, to face life from a balanced place of love and awe.