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A Dvar Torah for Perashat Beshalach: Exodus 13:17 - 17:16

Our Dvar Torah: We Took the Long Way Home
– Rebbe Nachman's Tale of the Seven Beggars.

A Dvar Torah for Perashat Beshalach: Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
and Likutey Moharan Book I Lesson #73
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © January 29, 2021

Our Parsha begins this way:

“It came to pass 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.

So G-d led the people on a roundabout route through the desert [to] the Sea of Reeds, and the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt.”

Consider this: Why did HaShem lead them by a round about way, and why armed? Why not straight home, to a peaceful Land? We may gain important insights from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's famous story of the Seven Beggars. Here is an edited translation of that tale as translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum (https://www.azamra.org/Essential/lost.htm).

There was once a mass flight of people from a certain country: everyone fled. As they were on their way they passed through a forest, and a boy and a girl got lost. One person lost a boy and another lost a girl. They were still little children of about the age of four or five. They had nothing to eat, and they cried and screamed because they were hungry.

Suddenly a beggar appeared with bags in which he was carrying bread. The two children approached him and began to follow him. He gave them bread, and they ate.

"How did you come to be here?" he asked.

"We don't know," they replied - they were only little children.

When he was about to leave, they asked him to take them with him. "But I don't want you to go with me," he said.

They noticed that he was blind. They wondered how he was able to find his way if he was blind. The fact that they wondered about this is itself unusual since they were only small children, but they were intelligent.

The beggar blessed them that they should be like him - that they should be elders like him - and then he left them some more bread and went on his way. The two children understood that G-d was watching over them and that He had sent them this blind beggar here in the forest to give them food.

When all the bread was finished, they again started crying for food. Night fell and they slept. In the morning they had nothing to eat, and they cried and screamed.

Again, a beggar appeared. He was deaf. They started talking to him, but he signaled with his hands that he could not hear. He also gave them bread and left. They wanted him to take them with him but he would not do so. He blessed them that they should be like him and also left them some bread and went on his way.

When all the bread was finished, they started to cry again. Along came a beggar with a speech defect. They started talking to him, but he stammered so badly that they did not know what he was saying. He could understand what they were saying but they didn't know what he was saying. He too gave them bread to eat and went on his way, blessing them that they should be like him.

Afterwards came a beggar with a crooked neck, and the same thing happened. Then a hunchback beggar came, and then a beggar with no hands, and then a beggar with no legs. Each one gave them bread and blessed them that they should be like him.

When all the bread was finished, they started making their way to an inhabited area. They came to a road and followed it until they came to a village. The children went into one of the houses, and the people had pity on them and gave them bread. They went into another house, where the people also gave them bread. They went from door to door and saw that they were having success.

They decided to stay together always. They made big beggars' sacks for themselves and went from door to door and attended all the celebrations - circumcisions and weddings. They then decided to move on and went to the larger cities, where they went from door to door. They went to the fairs and sat with the other beggars on the pavement with their charity plates. The two children became well known to all the beggars. They all knew them as the children that were lost in the forest.

Once there was a great fair in a large city. The beggars journeyed there and the young pair went with them. It occurred to the beggars that they should make a match between the pair and have them marry. As soon as the beggars began discussing the idea they all thought it a very good idea and agreed on the match.

But how were they to make the wedding? Since the king's birthday banquet was to be held shortly, they decided that all the beggars should go, and from the meat and bread they would beg for themselves they would make the wedding. And so it was: all the beggars went to the king's birthday celebrations and begged for bread and meat. They also collected all the leftover meat and party rolls from the feast. They went and dug a great pit large enough to hold a hundred people. They covered it with reeds, earth and dung and all went inside. There they made the wedding for these two children. They brought them under the marriage canopy and everyone was very happy.

Of the two children and the Seven Beggars Reb Nosan commented:

“All of this we heard explicitly from the Rebbe. Yet regarding who, what and when, the story is profoundly deep, meaning the actual body of the story itself. Who are all the above-mentioned characters? What are they? When did this all take place? It is too deep to comprehend.”

Here is a secret: The two children can be conceived as the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara within a single divided person. After so many exciting adventures the children grow up and marry and "the two become one flesh." They achieve balance through devekut, attachment to Reality. Who are they who become one through the wisdom of the Seven Beggars? They are You. They are Me. They are each of us. This is a tale of the materially conditioned wondering Soul which, like a lost child, roams throughout material existence seeking Home.

What has this got to do with this week's Parshat Beshalach? Everything. We were all in Egypt with Yosef and thought we were home, but actually we were in slavery! In our lives sometimes things go well and we think we belong here. We feel safe because of our jobs, our spouse, our money... here in the diaspora, in America, in the Canada, in the UK and so on we think we are home. But inevitably antisemitism rears its ugly head and we must flee. In so many ways we realize that we are always “the wondering Jews.”

There is a straight path Home. It is teshuvah, repentance. It is available to us all. But we all decided not to take that route. We all chose to eat of the forbidden fruit of experiential knowledge. What is the Path Home? It is emunah, motivating faith. However instead of walking Derech HaShem, the Way of G-d, we choose to leave the Path and journey through the dark realms of material existence. Lifetime after lifetime we “take the long way Home.” And this is OK! Live with intention! Embrace Joy! Embrace and Honor LIFE as you pass through all of these diverse experiences! BUT remember the Giver of All Life! The Holy ONE, Blessed be He! In time we will realize our true heart's desire, to go Home to HaShem and Gan Eden!

As in the hit song by Super Tramp:

Supertramp Lyrics

"Take The Long Way Home"

So you think you're a Romeo
playing a part in a picture-show
Take the long way home
Take the long way home

Cos you're the joke of the neighborhood
Why should you care if you're feeling good
Take the long way home
Take the long way home

But there are times that you feel you're part of the scenery
all the greenery is comin' down, boy
And then your wife seems to think you're part of the
furniture oh, it's peculiar, she used to be so nice.

When lonely days turn to lonely nights
you take a trip to the city lights
And take the long way home
Take the long way home

You never see what you want to see
Forever playing to the gallery
You take the long way home
Take the long way home

And when you're up on the stage, it's so unbelievable,
unforgettable, how they adore you,
But then your wife seems to think you're losing your sanity,
oh, calamity, is there no way out?

Does it feel that you life's become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.
When you look through the years and see what you could
have been oh, what might have been,
if you'd had more time.

So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who's to blame if you're not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home...........

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