Monday, January 30, 2012

A New Song of the Sea

Parashat Beshallach

Exodus 13:17-17:16

11 Shevat 5772 / Feb. 3-4, 2012

A New Song of the Sea

by Rabbi Dan Horwitz

In this week’s portion, Beshallach, we find the Israelites journeying out of Egypt, exploring the world around them as free people for the first time. Once he sees that the Israelites are gone, Pharaoh’s heart again hardens and the Egyptians chase after the Israelites, trapping them against the Sea of Reeds. At God’s command, Moses raises his arms, splits the sea, the Israelites cross to the other side on dry land, and the Egyptians pursuing them drown as the waters crash down on them. The Israelites rejoice with song and dance at the demise of their former tormentors, and continue on their journey into the wilderness.

The “Song of the Sea” sung by the Israelites in this portion is one of the more beautiful pieces of prose we find in our Bible. How we express thanks – how we connect spiritually to the world around us – can often be accomplished through song. Whether lyrics or melody speak to you more, whether harmonizing while singing with others or slam poetry gets you going, fulfilled expression is a key part of human existence, and as our ancestors demonstrated, is inherently part of being Jewish.

In honor of those who came before us, below is my humble attempt at a little spoken word sharing the themes of this week’s Torah portion and the lesson I hope we’ll take away from it.

The plagues are over; the Egyptian firstborns are dead

The Israelites are heading out of Egypt; Pharaoh’s got no slaves to make his bed

Backed against the sea by Pharaoh’s army; Moses throws his arms up to God above

The sea splits, the Israelites cross; for Egyptian bondage they have no love

The Egyptians chased after; their futures suddenly ending

The waves crashed down upon them; leaving none but Pharaoh requiring mending

The Israelites saw Divine intervention; raucous rejoicing ensued

Praising the Lord for being on their side; expressing gratitude

So too when we have moments in life; that require us to pause

To give thanks for our many gifts; for escaping life’s often-unrelenting jaws

Let’s think back to our ancestors before; who knew just how and when

To give appropriate due and shout it out loud; with a Halleluyah and an Amen!

This Shabbat, find your own song. And shout it from the freakin’ rooftops.

Shabbat shalom.


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