The Difficult Journey to Redemption

The Difficult Journey to Redemption

Feb 7, 2009 By David M. Ackerman | Commentary | Beshallah

As an undergraduate, I studied American History, with a special focus on the African American experience in the nineteenth century. Black Americans of the time divided their lives into two distinct phases—before emancipation and after emancipation. The Civil War, of course, served as the hinge; by war’s end in 1865 millions of former slaves had become, in the parlance of the day, freedmen. Not that post-emancipation Black life in America was easy, simple, or beautiful. As we all know, it took another century for some of the basic promises of emancipation—the right to vote, some measure of equal opportunity, fair and equal access to public accommodations, among others—to become reality. But still, that moment came to represent the possibility of transformation, of reversal of fortune, of redemption, for many.

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The Power of Collective Prayer

The Power of Collective Prayer

Jan 19, 2008 By Edward Feld | Commentary | Beshallah

There are powerful moments when a community comes together, moments in which each individual feels his or her energy directed to common purpose.

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A Personal Relationship to Torah

A Personal Relationship to Torah

Feb 3, 2007 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Beshallah

In his parashah commentary several weeks ago on the beginning of the book of Exodus, our Chancellor-elect Arnold Eisen shared what I consider one of my favorite texts.

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Finding the Strength to Face the Unknown

Finding the Strength to Face the Unknown

Feb 3, 2007 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Beshallah

Parashat Beshallah witnesses the triumphant redemption.

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Reinvigorating Conservative Judaism

Reinvigorating Conservative Judaism

Feb 11, 2006 By Susan Grossman | Commentary | Beshallah

The Talmud recounts a story told by Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah who, while on a journey, met a young boy sitting at a crossroad.

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Accounting for God’s Silence

Accounting for God’s Silence

Jan 22, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

In his utterly engrossing autobiography, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which came out in Hebrew in 2002, Amos Oz describes the elderly maidservant in the home of his maternal grandparents in Ukraine as being stone deaf.

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Inheritance and Tradition As Sources of Stability

Inheritance and Tradition As Sources of Stability

Feb 7, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

I cherish the books of my father that are scattered throughout my library. Long gone, he and I still meet on the pages of books he once pored over. Many an interest of mine has been piqued by a rare book from his collection. An heirloom is often a catalyst. He lived in the world of his books as do I, surely a trait I internalized through exposure. When forced to leave Germany afterKristallnacht at age thirty-nine, he was able to take his books with him. They anchored his psyche during the disorienting transition to a new language, culture and society. Though stripped of all foliage, he enjoyed the benefit of deep roots.

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Human Responsibility for Stewardship

Human Responsibility for Stewardship

Feb 7, 2004 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Beshallah | Tu Bishvat

This year, Tu Bishvat takes on new meaning for me as I eagerly await the birth of my first child.

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Torah and Jewish Survival

Torah and Jewish Survival

Jan 18, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

We tend to think of revelation as a highly restrictive term. The fate of a revealed text is to be immutable. We humans have no right to alter what God has given. But in Judaism precisely because the Torah is revered as divine, it becomes susceptible to unending interpretation. It would be a denigration of God’s word to saddle it with just a single meaning. In contrast to human speech, which carries a finite range of meanings, the language of God was deemed to be endowed with an infinity of meanings. This theology freed the Rabbis to do midrash, creating the anomaly of a canon without closure. The vessels kept changing their contents. New challenges elicited new insights into a text inviolable only on the surface.

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God’s Presence in the Arms of Loved Ones

God’s Presence in the Arms of Loved Ones

Jan 18, 2003 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Beshallah

On the occasion of this joyful Shabbat, on which we celebrate the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, (and this year, Tu Bishevat), I find myself more contemplative than joyful.

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Role of the Synagogue Regarding Newcomers

Role of the Synagogue Regarding Newcomers

Jan 26, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Beshallah

Young Ms. Goldberg walks into the doors of a local synagogue.

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Turning to God in Celebration, Not Distress

Turning to God in Celebration, Not Distress

Jan 26, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Beshallah | Pesah

Last winter, I visited the Ukraine with a number of other American rabbis. Our purpose was learn about the revival of Judaism in the former Soviet Union, and also to do some teaching in places where teachers don’t come that often.The day after arriving in Kiev, we made our way to Zvenogorodka, a town that used to be a shtetl but now has no Jewish neighborhood.

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The Folly of Faith in Military Strength

The Folly of Faith in Military Strength

Feb 10, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

Though separated by centuries, this week’s parasha and haftara overlap thematically. In each case, ancient Israel, aided by the forces of nature, prevails over a mighty enemy equipped with the most fearsome weapon of the day, the chariot. Pharaoh pursues the horde of Israelites departing Egypt with every chariot at his command, including his elite corps of 600. Drawn by two horses, each one of these swift vehicles was manned by a driver, warrior and officer. Clearly, Pharaoh intended to cow his just freed slaves into returning to Egypt without a struggle (Exodus 14:6-7).

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Individual and Collective Formation of Nationhood

Individual and Collective Formation of Nationhood

Jan 22, 2000 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Beshallah

At the heart of Parashat Beshalah lies the triumphant poem, Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. Having successfully crossed the Reed Sea and witnessed the downfall of Pharaoh’s horsemen, Moses and the children of Israel burst out into an outpouring of praise for the God who freed them from the bonds of slavery. This biblical poem provides the historical transition from Pharaoh’s oppressive rule to God’s glorious kingship. In its biblical context, this song marks the emergence of a nation — from the mixed multitude that leaves Egypt to the people who encounter God at Sinai. 

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Balancing Emotional and Rational Approaches

Balancing Emotional and Rational Approaches

Jan 30, 1999 By Morton M. Leifman <em>z”l</em> | Commentary | Beshallah

This Shabbat celebrates music. Some communities have developed the lovely custom on Shabbat Shira of distributing special food for the birds, those providers of musical gifts to humanity. The Beshalah Torah reading contains the passionate hymn which our ancestors chanted after crossing the Sea of Reeds in safety and witnessing the destruction of their pursuing enemies. Our tradition is to stand during the reading of the hymn, for the leader to use special musical tropes during the chanting and for the congregation to join in the singing of a number of the verses. It is intended to be a dramatic performance. In some Hassidic communities the chanting was followed by a ritual dance to reenact symbolically the jumping into the waters of the sea and the emerging in safety. Thus, music and drama are used as an integral part of the emotional components of the religious experience.

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Empathy for the Other

Empathy for the Other

Feb 7, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah | Pesah

It took God but six days to create the world; it took my mother at least twice that long to prepare for Passover. At the seder on the first night she would often doze contentedly from a mild case of exhaustion. Everything sparkled; nothing was out of place. The beauty of the table and the aromas coming from the kitchen attested to her toil and artistry. By turning ritual into a fine art, she enhanced the presence of God at our family seder.

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Voices of the Past Influence the Present

Voices of the Past Influence the Present

Jan 25, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

I like to daven from old prayer books, especially those awash in personal ties. The sheen of new ones, yet unused, leaves me cold. I am helped by the knowledge that their well-worn pages often brought others great comfort. I treasure two in particular: my father’s traditional siddur from which he davened when not in shul and my great aunt’s pocket siddur printed in Frankfurt in 1939 which was by her side in her concentration camp ordeal. Whenever I daven from these siddurim, I find myself warmed by the memory of loved ones whose lives ease my own quest for religious experience and meaning.

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Forging Faith: Persistent Human Effort Vs. Divine Miracles

Forging Faith: Persistent Human Effort Vs. Divine Miracles

Feb 3, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

The end of a story often illuminates its beginning.

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Judaism and Linear History

Judaism and Linear History

Jan 22, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Beshallah

Unlike most sabbaths of the year, this week’s bears a special name. It is called “Shabbat Shirah – the Sabbath of Song,” from “The Song at the Sea” which is recited to its own cantillation in this week’s parasha (Ex. 15:1-19). A specimen of archaic biblical poetry, the song recounts with gusto the deliverance of Israel, trapped between the Sea of Reeds and the Egyptian army, by yet another divine miracle. And thus in the middle of winter each year, the offspring of ancient Israel break forth in joyous song, as if the redemption had just occurred.

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Beshallah

Beshallah

Jan 1, 1980

4 Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time.

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