Each year I rejoice when we reach this Torah portion which includes the parting of the sea, the Israelites crossing through on dry land, and the special chanting of Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea, with Miriam and the women following her in dance and song with their timbrels for accompaniment.
We read of sweetening the bitter water, the raining down of Manna for sustenance, and the defeat of the Amakelites as long as Moses can keep his hands raised.
So many possibilities for exploration!
In addition, I look for the verse “Ze Eli v’anvehu, this is my God and I will exalt the Holy Presence (Exodus 15:2). It is part of my rabbinic mission statement, since I interpret it Hiddur Mitzvah, enhancing every prayer, blessing, ritual, and learning encounter to make each one meaningful and beautiful… fulfilling the mitzvah, the commandment, in an intentional way, with care and kavannah, not just by rote or habit.
This year, rather than sitting at my office desk in Sedona, and contemplating my focus on the Israelites crossing the sea on dry land or any of the other dramatic scenes in the parshah, I’m checking in every few hours with my husband Itzhak at the Oasis Hospital in Phoenix where he has just undergone knee replacement surgery. I’m more in the wife role than the rabbi role. That colors my perception of the text as I read Beshallach. In our personal journey at this time I see the parting of the seas as an opening, a new pathway, as my husband journeys from pain and constriction to the hope of new freedom of movement. I look to the promise of dancing and singing our own song of gratitude and awe at the miracle of enhanced mobility. First he will have to go through the wilderness of physical therapy with some pain and uneven progress as the Israelites experienced in their wandering in the desert.
The emails, texts, and calls of support and good wishes for a refuah shleimah, full recovery, keep our spirits up. People offering to bring food once we are home… well, that will be like Manna from heaven from this time of recuperation for him and caregiving for me.
Each parshah of the Torah of our tradition is reread each year through the lens of the Torah/the teaching/the story, of our own lives, and this year for this rabbi/wife, it is the hopeful tale for my beloved of leaving an oppressive state of pain for the expansive possibility of free and flexible movement, and looking forward to celebrating with a joyful and song of gratitude and awe.
May new doors open and new pathways present themselves to each reader of this very personal response to Beshallach. May our study of holy text influence and uplift our daily experiences as we move forward, always confident that the seas will part and we will walk to the next stage in our journey to the Promised Land. JN
Rabbi Alicia Magal is the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.