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Beshallach – Shabbat Shira – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

This week is Shabbat Shirah with Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees, on Monday. Shabbat Shirah is always associated with the Parasha this week, Beshalach.

The Torah reading of the week contains the Song of the Sea. This was the song by the Children of Israel. Moses starts the song, but it was Miriam and all the women who took up the words and danced with timbrels in their hands.

This”song” includes the very familiar words, “Mi Chamocha Elohim”

מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא
Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, powerful in the holy place? Too awesome for praises, performing wonders!

The Sedra is framed by a battle (with the Egyptians) and ends with a battle against the Amalekites. In between, we cross the sea, are supplied with water, manna and quails and the principle of a day of rest. What has, up to now in the Torah, been interaction between God and an individual or a family, now changes to God faced with a people who are described as stiff-necked and perverse.

From the time we left Egypt we complained

They said to Moses, is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?

At the waters of Marah where the water was bitter

The people complained against Moses, saying, what shall we drink?

In the wilderness of Zin

The entire community of the children of Israel complained against Moses and against Aaron in the desert

At the beginning of the Sedra God decides to lead us not directly to the Promised Land but via the desert. We needed to learn and to mature.

Maimonides, in his “Guide for the Perplexed” wrote:

There is no such thing as sudden, drastic, revolutionary change in the world we inhabit. Trees take time to grow. The seasons shade imperceptibly into one another. Day fades into night. Processes take time, and there are no shortcuts

Looking back, we may feel that the pandemic is that “sudden, revolutionary change” but we will still be planting trees in the coming week. We continue to learn.

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