Soft Landing: Beshalach 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What does it take for us to be awe-struck? What causes us to slow down and appreciate wonder, especially in a world with so much noise?

At the seminal moment of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, God creates a scene so remarkable that it inspires the people to sing and dance on the other side of the Red Sea:

The Pitch: “But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.” – Exodus 14:29

Swing #1: “Men are impressed only when they see events which are clearly miraculous. They fail to realize that nature itself is a great miracle in which they can behold the greatness of the Guide and Creator of the Universe each day. Only when they are confronted with an event that is obviously supernatural do they realize that the providence and the miracles of God are present even in everyday nature which we are so much inclined to take for granted. This is the interpretation of the above-cited verse: ‘As for the Children of Israel, when they experienced the miracle that they could walk through the sea as on dry land, they became aware that they walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea, that even if they had been walking on dry land it would have been no less a miracle than if they had been walking through the midst of the sea.’” – Rabbi Elimelekh of Lizensk

Swing #2: “Another explanation, God said to Moses: ‘There is no need for you to pray. I have already heard Israel’s prayer.’ Another explanation: ‘I know their prayers before they utter them.’ Hence: ‘Tell the Israelites to go forward.’” – Exodus Rabbah

Swing #3: “All the while the Egyptians experienced all these problems and were drowning, the Israelites had been walking through the sea as if it were dry land. The areas still being traversed by Israelites were not affected by the sea reverting to its originals state.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think our commentators believe that the Israelites are too slow to appreciate God’s miracles, too fast, or appropriately timely? Do you agree? Given that the Israelites begin to complain to Moses a mere three days after crossing the sea, do you think the people’s sense of awe is too limited? What allows us to appreciate awesome moments both in the short term and in the long term?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: There is much to look forward to at services this Saturday – the reading of the Song of the Sea, a baby-naming, and a tribute to Tu Bishvat, including special foods at Kiddush and trivia questions and words of Torah about trees. It all will be even better if you’re there to share it with us.

The Big Inning at the End: Each year, Baseball Prospectus projects the win-loss record of each Major League team. They do so based on statistical analysis of each player’s prior performance. Are you more likely to believe this numbers-based approach, or are you more likely to trust the predictions of sportswriters and scouts who don’t rely on statistics nearly as much?

Shabbat Shalom!