Parshat Beshalach marks the beginning of the Children of Israel’s journey through the desert following their dramatic escape from Egypt. The parsha opens with the word vayehi.
“וַיְהִי, בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת-הָעָם, וְלֹא-נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא.”
“And 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.” (Exodus, 13:17)
Our Sages teach that the word “vayehi” is “lashon tza’ar” – a word used to convey sadness. The Children of Israel are finally leaving Egypt. After generations of enslavement, they are finally a free people. They are about to witness incredible, unprecedented miracles on every step of their journey, swaddled with Diving protection – a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night. The next few chapters recount the monumental crossing of the Red Sea, the manna sustaining them from heaven, the astounding victory against Amalek, and more. Why would this parsha of miracles begin with a sad word?
In the words of the Friediker Rebbe of Lubavitch, the saddest thing about the Jewish people is that we show up before God as schleppers, as beggars. When a beggar asks for money, he puts out his hand and asks for spare change. Just a few coins here and there. Maybe, if he’s a bit chutzpadik, he’ll ask for a little more. When it comes to God, we ask for so little, the Friediker Rebbe explained, when our loving Father or Mother in Heaven is just waiting for us to ask for everything.
When we left Egypt, we were like beggars. A traumatized, desperate heap of downtrodden slaves fumbling to put one foot in front of the other as we walked through the wilderness toward our future. On the night where the Mighty God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, we could have asked for anything. We could have asked for everything. We could have asked God to bring mashiach, right then and there. We could have asked for every broken heart in the world to be fixed. For everything wrong to be made right.
When the Torah uses this word – vayehi – it is begging us to remember that whenever there is an et ratzon, a holy, auspicious moment, the gates are open before you. Whenever big things are happening in your life, when the world is changing right before your eyes – don’t be stingy. It’s not about you. It’s God’s world. Ask for everything.