Shabbat-Table Talks: Beshalah

To read last year's Table Talk on Beshalah click here.


Value: Remember to pray; remember to act. When we are involved in a project, taking care of the many things that are necessary to achieve our goal, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that we are solely responsible for our success. We can sometimes forget to pray. Prayer reinforces the idea that all I do is in God’s hand--without His providence I will not be able to accomplish anything. Conversely, we should take action to realize the things for which we pray. For example, if we are praying for someone’s health, we should also do the things that we can to help that person. After you have successfully achieved your goals, have the attitude that it was mainly due to God’s help that you succeeded.


Text:  Shemot 17:8-16 (Especially verse 9 and 16)

Now ‘Amaleq came and made-war upon Israel in Refidim.

 (9) Moshe said to Yehoshua: Choose us men, and go out, make war upon Amaleq! On the morrow I will station myself on top of the hill, with the staff of God in my hand. Yehoshua did as Moshe had said to him, to make war against Amaleq.

Now Moshe, Aharon and Hhur went up to the top of the hill. And it was, whenever Moshe raised his hand, Israel prevailed and whenever he set down his hand, ‘Amaleq prevailed. Now Moshe’s hands are heavy; so they took a stone and placed it under him, and he sat down on it, while Aharon and Hhur supported his hands, one on this side and one on that side. So his hands remained steadfast until the sun came.


And Yehoshua weakened ‘Amaleq and his people, with the edge of the sword.

The Lord said to Moshe: write this as a memorial in an account (“bassefer”) and put it in Yehoshua’s hearing: Yes, I will wipe out, wipe out the memory of ‘Amaleq from under the heavens!

(16) Moshe built an altar and called its name: The Lord My Banner. He said: Yes, Hand on Yah’s throne! War for the Lord against ‘Amaleq generation after generation.


Method: Prepare by reading the “background for parents” sections. Read the text in Hebrew with the translation when necessary, or in English. [There are many interesting points in this passage that your children might raise and question. Allow the discussion to flow to those questions if that is what the children want.]


Discussion questions:

·        How did Moshe respond to the attack? (Two ways—action and prayer. The lifting up of Moshe’s hands was to beseech Hashem’s help.)

·        In what is the Torah more interested, Yehoshua’s strategy or Moshe’s activities? Prove it from the text. (The Torah devotes most of its description to what Moshe did on the mountain and not to what Yehoshua did on the battlefield.)

·        From the section that we read what is the main reason for the victory?


·        Do you have any projects that you are working on? Why should you include prayer for success as part of your preparations? (Prayer reminds us that we are dependent upon God for our success and that we should not expect that we can do everything necessary. It is a liberating feeling that we must do what we can and as much as we can but that ultimately it is God who will decide whether we succeed or not. )


Background for parents: (the approach to aim for in the discussion questions, not to be read to the children before the discussion.):


[Moshe’s response to the attack was twofold. 1) He sent Yehoshua to handle the military matter of choosing the men that will do battle (Israel probably did not have soldiers yet, even though they did come out of Egypt with arms). 2) Moshe would be stationed on top of the mountain, where he could view the battle and be seen by the people. He would take the staff of God with him.


This division clearly portrays the belief of Moshe and Israel that success in battle does not come by might alone (nor through prayer alone, for that matter) but through a combined effort of battle and prayer. This is an idea that recurs throughout the Tenakh. Interestingly, the very name of Israel’s first military leader, Yehoshua (lit. God saves), reflects this idea as well.


This idea is reflected in the way the narrative continues as well. The Torah reports that Yehoshua did as Moshe commanded him. Moshe and Yehoshua carried out the plan. The Torah had a choice which of the two stories to follow--the events at the battle or the event at the mountain. The Torah chose the events at the mountain as those that were more critical to the outcome of the battle. We are not told of Yehoshua’s successful military strategy but of the Moshe’s strategy to insure his steadfast concentration on his prayer and the difficulties that he faced. ]


By the way, we also should pray for the things that we want. Most importantly, we should pray that our children turn out well and let our children know that it is one of the things that we feel it is important enough to pray for. My wife Michal, upon noticing the fine character of a neighbor’s children asked the mother what was the secret of her success. She replied that she does three things:

1.    She listens goes to classes and listens to tapes on parenting and reflects upon the ideas she hears.

2.    She prays for her children to turn out well

3.    Anytime the household has to make a decision, she will discuss the decision with her child and end with “let Hashem Guide you in making the right decision.”


May Hashem help us to raise our children to have the Torah values imbued deeply in their hearts.


To read last year's Table Talk on Beshalah click here.


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