Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Torah Connection - Beshalach

What a chapter!  This reading includes 4 distinct miracles:

1. The splitting of the Sea of Reeds (and drowning of the Egyptian army). This is actually less of a miracle than the usual dramatization of it.  According to the text, the split was not instantaneous, but happened gradually overnight as a strong wind blew the water aside.  Since we are talking here about a sea of reeds -- a marsh, not the Red Sea as is frequently mis-translated -- this is not that crazy a notion.  Nonetheless, the context of the split, happening as it did just in time for the former slaves to escape, and then drowning their pursuers, has made it a focal moment in the genesis of the Jewish People.

2. The bitter waters of Marah were turned sweet when Moses threw in a piece of wood as directed by G*d.  This is an interesting allegory for the nature of faith.  The text reads:

23 They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; that is why it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet.
There He made for them a fixed rule, and there He put them to the test. 26 He said, "If you will heed the Lord your God diligently, doing what is upright in His sight, giving ear to His commandments and keeping all His laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the Lord am your healer." 
 The bitterness of the water parallels the bitterness of the people's grumbling.  The wood represents the commandments. Following the commandments may seem onerous, and frequently illogical (what's logical about throwing a piece of wood into the pool of water?) but in fact doing so allows the bitterness to dissipate.

This section is concluded with an image of harmony:
27 And they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there beside the water. 
Twelve springs - one for each tribe. And seventy palm trees - one for each person who originally came to Egypt with Jacob.  And they all encamped besides the water (which represents the commandments).  Now there is no need for grumbling, or fighting over shared resources, as there was enough for everyone.

3. The giving of Manna and quails to the Israelites in the desert. Why was this a miracle?  Because each day the people were directed to collect just enough for that day, or else the food would spoil -- except for Friday! In preparation for the Sabbath, they were to collect twice as much.  The food would then not spoil, and no Manna would rain down on the Sabbath itself.

4. The victory over Amalek. Why was this a miracle? Because when Moses held his hands up to the heavens (as in prayer), Israel prevailed, but when he let his hands down (losing faith), Israel's forces weakened as well.  Seeing this, Aaron and Hur each held up one of Moses's hands, thus supporting him in his role.


Do we see miracles today?  Do things sometimes happen "just in time"? Do we find means of using our natural resources better? Is the Sabbath valuable in today's context?  Are we able to accomplish things against impossible odds when we have faith and the support of our friends and families?

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