Friday, January 22, 2016

To live - D'var Torah - Parashat Beshalach/Shabbat Shirah/Sabbath of Song - January 22, 2016

I didn’t believe it. 
Here we are, standing at the far shore of the sea.
How did we get here? 
I am still not sure.
It was amazing and unbelievable.
But I am standing here, far away from the land where I toiled for so many years, far from the home of a slave.
We heard stories – of our ancestors from a place called Canaan, of a great ruler who came from them, named Joseph. 
But we didn’t believe those stories, because how could one of us be a ruler and then have all of his descendants be slaves?
But we were. 
And then HE came. 
Well, I didn’t know who HE was at first, but I realized that I did know his brother Aaron, and his sister Miriam, and their parents, Amram and Yocheved.  We lived not too far apart and often shared our pain and misery and, somehow, our hope.
When HE came – yes, MOSES, son of Amram and Yocheved – he had his brother Aaron assist him. They approached Pharaoh and demanded that he free us to worship our God in the wilderness.
Most of us didn’t know this God.  My family was among the few that still bore a memory of that faith, although we did not know what to call God.   We believed that there had to be some divine force more powerful than the gods of Egypt.  For what God or gods would want to see people die from their hard work as slaves?
The plagues came….Pharaoh finally relented, and we set out from Egypt filled with real hope and determination, not a vain sense that, one day, we would eventually escape the cruelty of our taskmasters.  
Then the rumors began to fly – Pharaoh’s heart was hard once again, and his soldiers were pursuing us.   We didn’t know what to do. We had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and nowhere to find safety. 
And then, Moses raised his staff.  The wind began to blow.  The waters before us that had been calm began to move. 
My good friend Nachshon was brave enough to walk into the waters, believing that there was something unique about the power that came from this God that we could not see.
And the waters….parted.  There was mostly dry land in front of us with water on each side.  There was a little mud, but after generations of slavery, this mud was the pathway to our freedom.   We could hear Pharaoh’s army approaching in the distance.  But we walked. And walked.   And we made it to the other side.
Then we turned around.
Pharaoh’s army was not far behind.
But the mud was a problem for them, for they were not walking like we did.  As they got stuck, something happened.
The waters moved…again – and returned to where they had been.
It was a tragedy for Egypt as their soldiers, who could not move, were overcome by the returning waves.
But we were safe.   We were together.   Miriam and the other women began to create a melody for these welcome words:  
What do we do now with our freedom?   We hope that Moses and Aaron will tell us, and guide us, because there are people among us who have little faith, even after this great miracle.  They see only possible challenges and predicaments.  Some even say that we should go back to Egypt, that the past was better.
Not I.  Never.  My eyes are glued to the horizon, to the desert and stark mountains ahead of us, to the promise of a land in which we will live in freedom.
That is enough for me to continue to put one foot in front of the other.  To walk.  To rejoice. To sing.  To live.  To be one of many people who will find a way to be partners with each other…and with God.

I hope that many generations will have that opportunity and take advantage of the freedom that was won today. 

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