Refael Kramer references Likutei Halachot, Tolaiim 4, in comparing Beshelach to Rabbi Nachman’s story of The Queen’s Daughter, who escaped the unwelcome attentions of an evil suitor by entering a castle of water.
Rabbi Simmons references the Stockholm Syndrome, as it applies to the Israelites under Pharaoh.
In the Torah, both good and bad deeds come from the heart. In contrast, Pharaoh considered himself a god in his heart, with the right to decide life and death. Yet Pharaoh made the very human choice to be led by his yetzer harah.
An inherent tension exists between justice and good in the patriarchs. For instance, Abraham argued with God against the killing of everyone, both good and wicked, in Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses, in contrast, used both force and collective punishment to succeed in his mission of creating a holy nation. A similar ethical tension exists in modern Israel, in their relations with the Palestinians.
Rabbi Sacks, z”l, observes that while you need an army to defend a country, you need education to defend a civilization. Furthermore, freedom is lost when it is taken for granted. The Torah emphasizes that children must ask questions. This is further incorporated into the Passover Hagaddah, which is tailored to not only answer questions from different mindsets, but also to education when the child does not know how to ask. In Judaism, we do not believe in blind obedience, but rather in questioning.
Gender in the Talmud is beyond binary, and incorporates 8 gender designations, including male, female, androgynous, lacking sexual characteristics, identifying as a different identity from one’s birth identity. The rabbis recognized that 6 genders were neither male nor female, and that the first human was both.
Moses initially refused to lead the people because he thought that they would not listen. However, the reason they did not listen was not because of him, but because their spirit was broken and the labor was harsh. Maimonides emphasized that the Torah has two goals: the well-being of the soul and the well-being of the body. Both are required.
God makes 5 promises to the Israelites, but without asking anything in return. These came from divine grace; because an enslaved people couldn’t imagine freedom or social justice, so a liberated people would know their Source of Liberation to transcend human capacity.
Please check out this exciting teaching by Rabbi Mordecai Finley
Shemot, or the book of Exodus, begins “These are the names of the children of Israel,” or the children of Jacob who came out of Egypt, the opening words of parasha Shemot.