Shabbat Shalom! – Beshallach

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, because we read the Torah portion Beshallach. It contains the magnificent Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. The Israelites survive the crossing of the Sea of Reeds with a great miracle, and in gratitude, they sing this song. Then they begin their adventures in the Wilderness of Sin (yes, that’s really the name.)

Some words of Torah on Parashat Beshallach:

My Strength Balanced with God’s Song by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Beating Karma to the Punch by Rabbi Marc Katz

Shabbat Shira: The Song of Miriam by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

I Will Not Forget the Night We Left Egypt by Rabbi Ruth Adar

The Original Fast Food Nation by Rabbi Doug Sagal

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Shabbat Shalom! – Beshalach

Image: An arrow in the sand: Forward! Photo by MIH83/Pixabay.

It’s Shabbat Shirah – the Shabbat when we read the triumphant Song of the Sea – and Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. The confluence of these two is subtle and powerful.

Tu B’Shevat marks the dead of winter. It began as an accounting device, the day to account for the age and produce of the trees, the beginning of a new fiscal year of their accounting. The sages chose this day because the trees look dead to the unschooled eye: no leaves, no blooms, no fruit, just a bare trunk and limbs. It’s the ideal time to sum up the books and start a new year.

Because a new season is on its way: deep within those bare sticks runs the living sap. The trees only appear to be dead. Crack a twig and you can see it. Leaves and fruit are far away, but they will come. To the educated eye, the tree is only dormant; life teems within.

The Torah portion Beshalach tells us of a crisis: the Israelites escape Egypt only to be trapped at water’s edge by Pharaoh and his army. All appears to be lost. Moses nervously assures the people that the Holy One will preserve them, to which the Holy One roars in reply, “Vayisa’oo – get moving!” The famous miracle comes only after the 600,000 move their feet and plunge ahead into the surf without a guarantee.

Both Tu B’shevat and Shabbat Shira mark a moment of apparent death. They describe a moment when all seems to be lost. The farmer and his Israelite ancestor must stir themselves – must answer the call “Vayisa’oo – get moving!” – in steadfast hope of something better to come. Flowers. Fruit. Freedom.

All is not lost.

 

Our darshanim this week:

Tree Bathing! – Rabbi Nina Mizrahi

Into the Wilderness – Rabbi David Ackerman

What’s Rising in You? – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Turn Around Plan – Rabbi Jordan Parr

Turning – Rabbi Menachem Creditor [VIDEO]

We Are All in the Same Boat – Rabbi Stephen Fuchs

Beating Karma to the Punch – Rabbi Marc Katz

 

Shabbat Shalom! Shabbat Shirah

Image: A footprint on a sandy shore. Image by https://pixabay.com/en/users/piper60-19643/

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, because we read the Torah portion Beshallach, which contains the magnificent Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. The Israelites survive the crossing of the Sea of Reeds with a great miracle, and in gratitude, they sing this song. Then they begin their adventures in the Wilderness of Sin (yes, that’s really the name.)

Some words of Torah on Parashat Beshallach:

On Gazelles and Pillars of Fire by Rabbi Beth Kalisch

The Song to the Violent God by Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

The One that Got Away by Rabbi David Kasher

Water from the Rock by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Shabbat Shira: The Song of Miriam by Rabbi Sylvia Rothchild

Honoring the Blank Spaces by Rabbi Minna Bromberg

Waiting for a Miracle  by Rabbi Ruth Adar

Also, if you are interested in reading more from other rabbis, check out my new feature, Rabbis Who Blog!

 

 

Waiting For A Miracle?

Imagine the scene: the armies of Pharaoh thunder toward the Hebrews, who are cornered at water’s edge.  The people begin to scream and cry, asking their leader, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt, that you had to bring us out here to die?”  Moses, their leader, replies, “Stand still, calm down, God will fight for you.”  Then — in the movie version, not the Torah version — God commands Moses to stretch out his rod over the sea, and a miracle happens.  The bad guys die, the good guys live, and everyone parties.

What? you say.  That is in the Torah, I’m sure of it!  That may be the way we generally tell the story, but it leaves out a line.   Here’s what it says in Exodus 14: 13 – 16.

And Moses said unto the people: ‘Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Eternal, which He will work for you to-day; for although you have seen the Egyptians to-day, you shall see them again no more for ever.  The Eternal will fight for you, so hold your peace.’ 

 And the Eternal said unto Moses: ‘Why cry to Me? Speak to the children of Israel, and let them get moving!  And lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go into the midst of the sea on dry ground. 

Somehow, in all the drama, one very important line often gets lost.  Moses was looking for a miracle.  He told the people to look for a miracle.  He said, “Don’t be afraid, stand still, wait for God to save you.”  And God’s response to Moses was direct:  “Why speak to me?  Talk to them!  Tell them to get moving!”

Vayisa’oo – get moving! – is a key word in this week’s very famous Torah portion, Beshallach.  Don’t wait for miracles.  Talk to each other.  Encourage each other.  Don’t be passive.  GET MOVING!

Forward movement precedes miracles, even in the greatest miracle story of all time.

So in those edge-of-the-sea moments, when it is tempting to hope for a miracle, or even more tempting to despair, the trick is to look for the way to move forward.  Even in the panicked crowd, can I move my foot forward just a bit?  Can I encourage someone else to move forward too?

Fear and paralysis are the great enemies of survival.  Fear and paralysis would have left the children of Israel at the wrong edge of the sea, trampled and slaughtered.

Vayisa’oo — get moving.  Write to your elected representative.

Vayisa’oo — Volunteer to help someone in need.

Vayisa’oo — Vote, whenever you have the chance.

Vayisa’oo — Keep moving to the next job interview.

Vayisa’oo — Keep moving on the project, whatever it is.

Vayisa’oo — Encourage others, rather than discourage them.

Vayisa’oo — and we’ll all dance, on the other side.