Dear WJC Family,
This week’s parsha, Beshalach, includes one of the most important moments in our communal history, the closing of the Red Sea. I know it’s the parting of the sea that gets all the attention and I get that—the water moving together is only nature running its course; the real miracle is the water separating. Plus the water parting makes for way cooler special effects. Still, while the water parting may be more miraculous, the sea closing up behind the Israelites was probably more significant.
After all, God had already done some pretty incredible miracles on their behalf (ten in fact) and their situation hadn’t changed. Now here is this 11th one proving once again that God is really powerful, again. But when the sea closes, that’s when reality truly changes for the former slaves. They are cut off from everything they ever knew, they are in a desert and there is now no going back. Even as the waters crash down on the Egyptian soldiers, so does this reality crash down upon the Israelites. And what happens next? Chaos!
On the one hand, the people are overcome with joy at their newfound freedom and their relationship with God, who after years of silence, now seems to be squarely in their corner. Led by their prophets Moses and Miriam they sing the Song of the Sea, which is so important that it remains one of the few passages from the Torah that we recite every day (both in its entirety and excerpted every time we sing “Mikha Mokha.”
And yet, before the chapter with the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15) even ends, already the people are frightened and complaining: We are stuck in the desert! Where will we get fresh water to drink? What will we eat? Why did we leave Egypt? What were we thinking?
The cataclysmic moment of the closing of the sea is when the people recognize that everything has changed and we cannot go back. Over the last decade or so, the American Jewish community has had a similar realization—and dare I say things are similarly chaotic. There are those who are singing the song of everything that is new, and those who are lamenting the loss of what was; and just like in the desert over 3000 years ago, those are often the same people!
At transitional times like these, there are voices that rise above the din to help the community sort through our mixed emotions and ideas. Rabbi Sharon Brous has emerged as one of those voices in today’s American Jewish community. Her passion and courage to have difficult conversations, chart a path through the chaos and express strongly held opinions (sometimes controversial ones) have made her an important presence in the Jewish conversation today. We are lucky to have the opportunity to learn with her five times this weekend!
I hope you will join us for her talks this Shabbat, as well as on Saturday night and Sunday morning. She is wise, a gifted orator and connected to current events. Her presentations promise to be challenging and thought-provoking. She will surely get us all thinking about the important questions facing our own community today and the role that the WJC family might play as we move into this next phase of American Jewish life.
There will also be regular Shabbat evening services at 5:00pm where I will be speaking, and Simple & Soulful services on Saturday morning led by Cantor Goldberg and me with the theme, “The Paradox of Choice.” Rabbi Segelman will be leading the service in the sanctuary. At 11:30 we will come together for Rabbi Brous’s Shabbat morning sermon. Also, you can click the video link below to see some highlights from our Shabbat Torah Talk last week entitled, “Shawshank Exodus: Why power and fear are a dangerous combination.”
See you in shul,