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131http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/01/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---01_25_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 01_25_2013
01/24/2013 10:45 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
January 25, 2013

 

                In this week’s Torah portion, B’shalach, from Exodus 13:17ff, the plot gets more exciting and suspenseful when the Israelites, who just fled Egypt, see the Egyptians charging after them. Quickly, they make their way to the Sea where Moses raises his staff and the waters part. God’s miracles work in their favor again and the Israelites flee on a dry riverbed, while the Egyptian horsemen and warriors drown in the waters that fall around them. As the Israelites emerge on the other side unscathed and dry, they sing a song of exaltation and praise. In Exodus 15, we read the famous Song of the Sea (Shirat Hayam) which extols God and the wondrous acts God performs to save the Israelites.

                Within the Song, we hear the familiar words, “Mi Chamocha,” which is part of our liturgy when we worship together on Shabbat. It asks, “Who is like You, God, among the gods that are worshiped; who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in splendor, working wonders!” Today, many hip melodies have been written to continue the tradition of lending voice and spirit to this victory. But, deep within the Song are other words that merit a closer look.

                In Exodus 15:13 (second part of the verse) we read, “In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode.” Our Rabbis asked, “What is God’s strength?” That is, if the Torah goes to the effort of mentioning something that is understood, namely, God’s strength, what else does the text want us to know? They taught, “God’s ‘strength’ is nothing but Torah, itself.” Here, “nothing” doesn’t mean nothing. It’s really something. The Rabbis remember that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt for the purpose of bringing them to Sinai, where God would formally seal the covenant with them and introduce Torah to the world. The strength of the world would depend on three things, as we’ve learned: Torah, Worship, and Acts of loving-kindness.

                So we say: Out of God’s love for the people Israel, God gave them Torah, God’s greatest gift. Torah was nothing less than God’s own strength, and the Rabbis didn’t waste time embracing it. To the Jewish people, Torah is the very symbol of God’s covenant with us; and, more, it’s the blueprint with which we can enrich our life and the world we live in. Its teachings are familiar: Love your neighbor as yourself; Honor your father and mother; keep the Sabbath as a holy day; I am the Lord your God, who led you out of Egypt to be your God.

                The Torah and its teachings are not too confusing or baffling; they are within our reach to learn and do them. As I tell Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, you don’t have to prepare the whole Torah, just a small portion. The rest of your life should be devoted to life-long Jewish learning. Step-by-step you learn, you do, and you learn some more. And, when you return to a portion you’ve already studied, it’s time to reflect on it again, only this time from a new perspective. Our Sages taught, “Turn it [Torah], and turn it again, for all is contained within it.”

                As the week ends, ask yourself what have you learned from Torah this week? How will you make Torah your strength, today? Let’s learn together as we remember: “Torah is [also] your life and the length of your days.”

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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