There is a nice story about the Rebbe who would read the Torah for the congregation on Shabbat Shirah, Parshat BeShalach. He would read the song sung by the Jewish people after seeing the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. He sung it with such feeling that his chassidim would feel that there were actually there on the banks of the Red Sea. Without even noticing they would lift up their tallitot so that they would not “get wet” from the sea.
Someone once witnessed this and was heard to comment that the Rebbe is so worried that his flock should pas through the sea and all the chassidim are concerned about is not getting wet!
Like any good joke there is some truth in this little tale. The true leader of the Jewish people has to be concerned not only with their spiritual welfare but he must take a deep and real interest in their physical protection as well.
This is amply clear from our Parshah. While all will tell you that the obvious central feature of BeShalach is the song of praise sung to God after the great deliverance. The song speaks of the Beit HaMikdash and other prophecies and was a great spiritual height for the Jewish people.
However, the Parshah does not conclude with the Shirah. Rather, immediately following the song the Jewish people face physical hardship. They do not have enough to drink, they face war and attack.
The Torah teaches us a very important lesson here. The people cannot stay on the banks of the Red Sea, they have to continue their journey. To become a people they need these great spiritual boosts like witnessing the splitting of the Red Sea, but this is not all there is when it comes to be a nation. Indeed, the nation must face up to physical needs, food and water, military protection. These are important elements in forming a nation.
The same is true on an individual level. While we may derive great pleasure from spiritual experiences they cannot be the majority of our lives and we need to find God in the physical daily work. Shabbat comes once a week, and sustains us during the next six days. Those days are dedicated to work and developing the world. That is the task of man and the Jewish people in the world.