Shabbat Bulletin for

the Temple Sholom Community

25 January 2024 ~ 15 Shvat 5784 ~ Tu BiShvat

Parashat Beshallach ~ Shabbat Shirah

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends - 

Chag sameach! Happy Tu BiShvat. Today we celebrate the Birthday of the Trees! Enjoy a look on Sefaria for a host of links to take a moment to learn, sing, enjoy, and reflect.

Looking toward Shabbat ... among the Torah's best-known portions, this week's is surely in the Top Ten. Why? Beshallach contains the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the arrival at and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, and the magnificent Shirat HaYam - The Song of the Sea, where "Miriam took her timbrel in her hand and all the women followed her singing..." This week's portion has left us the enduring image of Charlton Heston as Moses, Debbie Friedman's "Miriam's Song" and of course Mi Chamocha ~ "Who is like you?" ~ in our daily liturgy. 

I want to take you to the moment soon before the splitting of the Sea. In Exodus 14:15 as the Israelites approach the Sea, with Pharaoh's troops in hot pursuit, they questioned Moses and feared they were trapped - soon to lose their lives. Though it is unrecorded in the text, it seems that Moses cried out to God. God answered: “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move forward.”  

When I read the text it seems like God is demanding that Moses be self-reliant and thus a model to the Israelites to be the very same. God is essentially saying: Don’t look to me — just go! These actions are for you to complete!

But Rashi (France, 1040-1105) interpreted the verse in two very different ways. First, Rashi says that Moses was standing and praying when God said to him “Now is not the time to pray at length, when Israel is in trouble.” In other words, Rashi imagines that God is telling him to quit wasting time praying. It would be more effective if he just got going — and made redemption happen!

As Rashi often does he offers another interpretation that suggests just the opposite. A second Rashi comment says: “Why do you cry out?” It’s on Me.” In other words, God is saying — no need to cry out, I will save you!

The very same verse yields two opposite interpretations. 1) This is a moment of self-reliance. 2) God's got the Israelites' journey and will save them. How about today - in our own journeys - should we rely on ourselves and our own actions OR should we have faith that God will save us? So many times in life there are multiple ways to interpret a text, an experience or a conversation. Similarly, so often two people can be at the same play, or read the same article and arrive at very different conclusions. 

Those who are familiar with Talmud study know that when there are two verses that contradict one another, a third is found to reconcile them. 

In this vein, I turn to Ecclesiastes to reconcile these competing understandings of our verse. In Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) we read in Chapter 3: “There is a time for everything.” No single principle can stand in all moods, for all moments. There are times that demand human efforts and times where it is more appropriate to turn to God. 

What has been so difficult about the current crisis in Israel, I have been acutely aware that Israel must be self-reliant - particularly in the face of the world's opposition to self-defense. And at the same time, I want God's presence to come swooping down and bring the hostages home and eradicate the dark forces of Hamas and Hizbollah. 

The journey of the Israelites genuinely begins this week in Beshallach and the events contained therein reflect the entirety of the wandering - and even our lives. There are moments of panic and disarray as well as revelation and redemption. There are quarrels and resolutions, devastatingly difficult decisions and calls for greatness and holiness. 

May God bless us with longevity and learning, chances to uphold the commandments and our people and to support one another through the uncertainty and the magnificent.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Mark Cohn

Recommended Resources from the Rabbi's Desk(top) for the weekend ...

Constant and important updates, podcasts, blogs, and articles from Times of Israel, Tablet Magazine, and Sapir Journal.


In celebration of the birthday of the trees, have a look at: "Jews in the Wilderness," by Michael Hoberman in Tablet Magazine. This is a remarkable article about a little known - though deeply impactful - story of a Jewish man, the Sierras, and recording history.

"'Antisemitism is again becoming a serious scourge,'" by Francesca Block in The Free Press. Explore an important discussion with Dani Dayan, head of Yad VaShem.

"'Your son gave his life for my son' I said," by Jeremy Staiman in the Times of Israel Blog.


"Israel at War: The Grand Bargain" from Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute on For Heaven's Sake.

"Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Mark Cohn

NOON - 1:00 PM

Bring a friend! Bring lunch if you want (dairy only - no meat)!

Our exploration of Jewish Priorities, (edited by David Hazony) continues!!


February 6, 14*, 20


February 6, Shaul Magid's essay: "Why Exile Matters: How to Rebuild Diaspora Culture Without Using Israel as a Crutch."

February 14, Hen Mazzig's essay: "An End to Ashkenormativity: Let's put bagels and lox behind us."

February 20, Izabella Tabarovsky's essay: "How to beat the New Antisemitism: It's Not about Human Rights. It's about Soviet Propoganda."



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday Evenings 6:30PM


January 26 - THIS WEEK!

February 9, 23


Meeting ID: 876 2982 2282

Passcode: shabbat


February 2, 16


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


January 27

February 3, 10, 17, 24