This week's Torah Reading:
: Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
opens with the Israelites having fled Pharaoh and their taskmasters in Egypt. As the Israelites are encamped by the sea, Pharaoh has a change of heart. "What is this we have done releasing Israel from our service?" (Ex 14:5). Pharaoh and his army begin advancing on the Israelites. Stuck between the sea on one side and the Pharaoh's army on the other, the people begin to panic. Moses instructs them to go forward towards the sea and as they do so he holds out his arm and the sea splits. After the Israelites pass through, Moses holds out his arm once again and the sea collapses on the Egyptian army. "And when Israel saw the wondrous power which
has wielded against the Egyptians...they had faith in
and God's servant Moses." (Ex 14:31).
Following the miracle of the splitting of the sea, the people give expression to the awe and wonder of the moment with
, the "Song of the Sea", one of the the longest selections of poetry and song in the Torah. Miriam is surrounded by all the women and leads them in dance.
Yet as they move on from this glorious moment, the Israelites begin to complain about their lack of food. God responds to their complaint by providing them with special "bread" called mannah. Mannah is found each morning when they wake up, but it only lasts for one day. The exception is Friday, when a double portion that lasts two days is collected by the people, as none was to be collected on
, or the Sabbath of Song, referring to the Song at the Sea, which was the grateful response of the Israelites when they saw that Pharaoh's army had been swept away by the sea-the same sea that had parted and permitted them to walk through on dry land. They immediately burst into song and prayer of thanks, which is found in Exodus 15:1-18. You might especially recognize the first line of this prayer,
Az yashir Moshe u-'vnei Yisrael..
.Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this prayer..." (Ex. 15:1), as it is inscribed above our Aron Kodesh
(holy ark). It is the first recorded communal prayer of the
people of Israel, and it contains the Hebrew name of CSI, b
Sunday night begins
the 15 day of the month of
. In the land of Israel the first signs of spring have appeared with the beautiful white blossoms of the almond tree in full bloom. Originally T
was to mark the first three years in the growth and maturity of trees in Israel. During those first three years one could not eat the fruit of the tree, and in the fourth year, called
in the Torah, a special sacrifice was offered to give thanks for the fruit of the tree. Later the kabbalists marked
with a special
, celebrating creation and the cycle of the seasons. (Please join us as we celebrate our first
Tu B'shevat seder
in many years on Sunday at 4:00pm.)
What do the
have in common? Both are moments when we thank God for the wonders of nature. In the Song at the Sea we are grateful that God used nature, the sea, to save our ancestors. On
we are thankful for the "everyday miracle" of planting a seed, watching it grow, and enjoying the delicious fruit that it produces. Taken together we are reminded that we are grateful for both the remarkable and the unremarkable moments in life. Both are a wonder of nature.