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    Lead & stone – B’shallach

    The Egyptians drowning in the sea - illustration by Gerard Hoet, 1728

    The Song of the Red Sea is full of high drama.

    “The horse and its rider has He cast into the sea… The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name… Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, dashes the enemy in pieces… The peoples hear and tremble, the chiefs of Edom are afraid” (Ex. 15).

    The Israelites were safe; the Egyptian pursuers sank into the sea.

    The story, however, moves from one simile to another. “They went down into the depths like a stone” (verse 5)… “Your wrath consumed them like stubble” (verse 7)… “They sank as lead in the mighty waters” (verse 10).

    So what was it – stone, stubble or lead?

    Rashi explains that it all depended on who the particular Egyptian pursuer was.

    The worst Egyptians were tossed in the waters for a long time like stubble blown about by the wind, those who were not so evil sank more quickly like a stone, and the best of them sank at once like lead and suffered very little.

    In this comment based on the Mechilta, Rashi shrewdly acknowledges that there were different guilt levels amongst the Egyptians, and God did not treat them all alike.

    No people is monolithic. There are always different attitudes, different levels of commitment.

    There are the militants who believe in the aggressive approach, the moderates who favour a more sedate approach, the quietists who prefer not to get involved.

    There is more than one way to promote a cause, more than one way to achieve an ambition.

    Those who make the most noise are not necessarily the wisest.

    Sometimes the kol d’mamah dakkah, “the thin small voice” (I Kings 19:12), is the one that speaks loudest.

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