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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 had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Perhaps when they see war, the people will reconsider and return to Egypt:
18 Rather, God led them the long way, through the wilderness along the Sea of Reeds. The children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.

Consider this: Why did HaShem lead them by a round about way, and why armed if they weren't going fight? Why not lead them 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 abreviated re-telling of the famous story.

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 them.

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

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

The children then noticed that he was blind. They wondered how he was able to find his way through the forest being blind. The fact that they wondered about this is itself unusual, since they were only small children, we learn that they were intelligent.

The beggar blessed them that they should be like him - that they should become 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 in the forest to give them food and wisdom.

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

Just then a second beggar appeared. He was deaf. They started talking to him, but he signaled with his hands that he couldn't hear their words. He also gave them some bread and left. They wanted him to take them with him but he said no. He blessed them that they should be like him, left them some bread, and went on his way.

When all the bread was finished, they started to cry again. Along came a third beggar. He had a speech defect. They started talking to him, but he stammered so badly that they didn't understand him. 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. He would not take them with him, but he blessed them, that they should be like him.

Afterwards there came a fourth beggar, this one with a crooked neck, and the same thing happened. Later a hunchback beggar came, and then a beggar with no hands, followed by a beggar with no legs. Each of the beggers gave them bread and blessed them, that they should be like him.

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

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! But He won't take us Home immediately, we'll take the long way home.

A Slightly Nanached Version of The Long Way Home, by Rabbi Shlomo Nachman

So, you think you're so Spiritual
playin' a part in God's picture-show
You take the long way home (pause)
Take the long way home

They think you're the joke of the neighborhood
Who cares that you're feeling good
You take the long way home (pause)
Take the long way home

Some times you're a part of the scenery
Watchin' all of that greenery, it's comin' down, down, down, (pause)
Your friends seem to think you've become
too fanatical oh, how peculi-ar, they used to be so nice.

When lonely days turn to lonely nights
you take a trip to the city lights
You take the long way home (pause)
Take the long way home

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

When you're at shul, God seems so believable,
Unforgettable, but now you're not quite sure, (pause)
And your friends think you're losing your sanity,
Oh, the calamity, is there no way out?

Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
We take the long way home (pause)
We take the long way home

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

But one day, the Messiah'll come,
Oh, and when he comes, then they'll understand,
why, we took the long way home (pause)
You took the long way home (pause)
I took the long way home (pause)

Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
Na Nach Nachma, Nachman Meuman
We took the long way home (pause)
We took the long way home (pause)
We took the long way home...

Here's the hit song by Super Tramp:

Supertramp Lyrics

"Take The Long Way Home"

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