In this week’s parsha, Beshallach, we see the Bnei Yisrael begin their journey through the Midbar. The Torah tells us that:
ה’ הֹלֵךְ֩ לִפְנֵיהֶ֨ם יוֹמָ֜ם בְּעַמּ֤וּד עָנָן֙ לַנְחֹתָ֣ם הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וְלַ֛יְלָה בְּעַמּ֥וּד אֵ֖שׁ לְהָאִ֣יר לָהֶ֑ם לָלֶ֖כֶת יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה׃
לֹֽא־יָמִ֞ישׁ עַמּ֤וּד הֶֽעָנָן֙ יוֹמָ֔ם וְעַמּ֥וּד הָאֵ֖שׁ לָ֑יְלָה לִפְנֵ֖י הָעָֽם׃
“Hashem went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
Many meforshim comment that the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire were very visible symbols to Am Yisrael that Hashem was with them all the time in the desert. Rabbeinu Bachaye points out that there is a symbolic aspect to these pillars- that Hashem was trying to teach us that He is with us in the day- meaning the times that are clearly good, but also in the night- the times where it is harder to see the good, the times where we feel disconnected and maybe even lost. Even in those times, the pillar of fire lit our way and Hashem was with us.
The Piacezna Rebbe, in Aish Kodesh from Shabbos Parshas Beshallach 1940 (January 20, 1940), comments that this verse is written in the present tense. We can take strength in that the Torah is telling us that it wasn’t just in the desert that Hashem was with us- but He is constantly with us in the light and in the dark every day of our lives.
The Rebbe also tells us that, as the Midrash brings down, wherever the Torah says “v’Hashem”, wherever there is a “vov” before Hashem’s name, it means that Hashem’s Heavenly court is with Him. The Rebbe questions why the Heavenly Court would have to be there. What judgement needed to happen at that time? Wasn’t the pillar of fire only for the benefit of the Bnei Yisrael? We learn through this concept that the aspect of judgement can also be understood to mean that Hashem judges what we need and then gives it to us. Since the passuk uses the term “לִפְנֵיהֶ֨ם” (before them) we can understand this to mean that each person gets what he or she needs according to Hashem’s judgements. And in the same way that the pillar of fire was “judgement” for our benefit, all judgements can be seen in this same light- that they are really all for our benefit. What becomes important is to use this knowledge to keep going- לָלֶ֖כֶת יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה – to walk day and night in the service of Hashem, knowing that He is here with us always. May we all be blessed to hold onto this idea and be strengthened by it as we move forward in the journeys of our lives.