THE TORAH READING FOR 17 SHEVAT 5781 Jan. 29-30, 2021 SHABBAT SHIRAH
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Eternal One. They said:
I will sing to the Eternal for God has triumphed gloriously;
Horse and driver God has hurled into the sea.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bshalach
B’shalach (בְּשַׁלַּח — Hebrew for “Now When [Pharaoh] Let [the People] Go”) – Exodus 13:17-17:16
Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” – Exodus 13:17
- The Children of Israel escape across the Sea of Reeds from Pharaoh and his army, who drown when God drives back the sea. (13:17-14:31)
- Moses and the Israelites sing a song praising Adonai. (15:1-21)
- In the wilderness, God provides the grumbling Israelites with quails and manna. God instructs the Israelites to gather and prepare on the sixth day food needed for Shabbat. (15:22-16:36)
- The people complain about the lack of water. Moses hits a rock with his rod and brings forth water. (17:1-7)
- Israel defeats Amalek, Israel’s eternal enemy. God vows to blot out the memory of Amalek from the world. (17:8-16)
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beshalach
The haftarah for the parashah is
- For Ashkenazi Jews: Judges 4:4–5:31 (the longest of the year); and
- For Sephardi Jews: Judges 5:1–31.
Both the parashah and the haftarah contain songs that celebrate the victory of God’s people, the parashah in the “Song of the Sea” about God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Pharaoh, and the haftarah in the “Song of Deborah” about the Israelites’ victory over the Canaanite general Sisera. Both report how the leaders of Israel’s enemies assembled hundreds of chariots,… how God “threw . . . into panic” (va-yaham) Israel’s enemies,… waters sweeping away Israel’s enemies,… singing by women to celebrate, the parashah by Miriam, and the haftarah by Deborah;… Finally, both mention Amalek.
The Gemara[, the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah,] tied together God’s actions in the parashah and the haftarah. To reassure Israelites concerned that their enemies still lived, God had the Reed Sea spit out the dead Egyptians. To repay the seas, God committed the Kishon River to deliver one-and-a-half times as many bodies. To pay the debt, when Sisera came to attack the Israelites, God had the Kishon wash the Canaanites away. The Gemara calculated one-and-a-half times as many bodies from the numbers of chariots reported in Exodus 14:7 and Judges 4:13.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beshalach
Beshalach (בְּשַׁלַּח—Hebrew for “when [he] let go”) – Exodus 13:17-17:16
In [the complete] parashah, Pharaoh changes his mind and chases after the Israelite people with his army, trapping them at the Sea of Reeds. God commands Moses to split the sea, allowing them to pass, then closes the sea back upon the Egyptian army. There are the miracles of manna and clean water. The nation of Amalek attacks and the Israelite people are victorious.
In the triennial part of Beshalach, Exodus 14:15-16:10, Moses lifts his rod, holds out his arm and a strong east wind splits the sea allowing the Israelites to march through on dry land with the Egyptians pursuing them. When safely on the other side, Moses holds out his arm again and the sea covers all the Egyptians. Moses, the Israelites and Miriam sing a song to the Eternal “celebrating how God hurled horse and driver into the sea.”
After three days travel into the wilderness and finding no water, they reach Marah, but the water is bitter and the people “grumble against Moses”. At God’s instruction, Moses throws a tree into the water and it becomes sweet. God tells Moses that if he steadily heeds “God and obeys God’s commandments, then God would give the Israelites none of the diseases that God had given the Egyptians.” They then travel to Elim, an oasis with “twelve wells and seventy date palms”, after which they reach the “wilderness of Sin” and grumble in hunger against both Moses and Aaron. God tells Moses “that God would rain bread [manna] from heaven, and twice as much on the sixth day.” Moses and Aaron tell them that they will see God’s glory, for God had heard their “murmurings” and they see “God’s glory appear in a cloud.”
In Modern Interpretation
Professor James Kugel of Bar Ilan University wrote that scholars have established that Semitic languages did not originally have a definite article (corresponding to the word “the” in English), but later developed one (the prefix הַ, ha, in Hebrew). That the song of Exodus 15:1–19 does not contain even one definite article indicated to Kugel (along with other ancient morphological and lexical features) that “it has been preserved from a very early stage of the Hebrew language and thus may be one of the oldest parts of the Bible.”
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_the_Sea
The Song of the Sea is noted for its archaic language. It is written in a style of Hebrew much older than that of the rest of Exodus. A number of scholars consider it the oldest surviving text describing the Exodus, dating to the pre-monarchic period. An alternative is that it was deliberately written in an archaic style, a known literary device. Proposed dates range from the 13th to the 5th century BCE.
The Ashkar-Gilson manuscript is a fragment of a 7th or 8th century Torah scroll that contains the Song of the Sea. Some scholars have argued that the “brickwork” pattern of the Ashkar-Gilson version shows that the Masoretes accurately copied earlier manuscripts. This pattern was not used in the Dead Sea Scrolls. A similar pattern is used in modern Torah scrolls.
This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shirah because the Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam) and Miriam’s Song are part of this week’s Torah Portion. During every Shabbat we sing the Mi-Chamócha, which includes parts of Shirat HaYam, Exodus 15:11, 15:2 and 15:18 in the evening. In the morning it includes Exodus 15:11 and 15:18.
At the Temple Sinai Tuesday Morning Minyan, the Darshan (דַּרְשָׁן or דַּרְשָׁנִית – Hebrew for “deliverer of the d’rash”) pointed out that the word “v’zimrat” in Exodus 15:2 can be translated as “song” or “might”. Robert Alter in his new translation of the Torah uses “power” instead and notes:
“2. power. Scholarly consensus is that this is the most likely sense here of the Hebrew Zimrah, but it is probably a pun on the more common meaning of the word “song” – God, Who is the source of the speaker’s power, is for that very reason the theme of this song.” The Hebrew Bible Volume 1 The Five Books of Moses Copyright © 2019 by Robert Alter, p.274
The Darshan also pointed out that Miriam’s song, Exodus 15:21, may be either the first verse of a longer “song” or a repetition of the Song of the Sea. Alter, however, notes that “The women here sing out the opening lines of the song we have just heard as a kind of antiphonal refrain.” Ibid., p.277
In The Torah A Women’s Commentary edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss Copyright © 2008 by URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism remarks on the Song At The Sea, Exodus 15:1-19, and Song of Miriam, Exodus15:20-21, read:
“Many modern scholars conclude that the Song was created and performed by women… evidence has been amassed to suggest that the Song should be attributed to Miriam. For example, one ancient manuscript tradition calls it the Song of Miriam. Also, songs of military triumph belong to a victory song genre typically composed and performed by women – not men – to greet victorious troops after battle…. Thus, the title ‘Song of Miriam’ that is often used by modern scholars and interpreters for v. 21 might in fact be appropriate for this passage as well.” pp.386-387
”Preceded by a prose introduction (v. 20), the single stanza of v. 21 is known in contemporary parlance as the Song of Miriam. This poetic verse is likely the title of the full poem, suggesting that the victory song in vv. 1-19 may have been composed by a woman….” p.392
Finally, there are several midrashim (textual interpretations) on Exodus. In one midrash, when God split the sea, as the Israelites passed through, the walls of water on either side looked like bricks – this may explain the brick-like pattern of Shirat HaYam in Torah scrolls. In another midrash, fruit trees bloomed in the way between the waters, and birds perched in the trees sang in joy for the freedom of the former slaves. In yet another one, when the Egyptians were drowning in the sea, the angels asked to sing praises to God and God replied, “My creations are drowning, and you want to sing before me?”
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.516
FOR OUR COUNTRY
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, COVID-19, natural disasters, war and violence – including those who died on the assault of the US Capitol.
This week, the 17th through the 23rd of Shevat, we lovingly remember:
Father of Dr. Samuel Caron, President of Temple Kol Hamidbar
Friend of Temple Kol Hamidbar Member
Temple Kol Hamidbar Memorial Board
We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, January 29, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Beshalach (triennial part) Exodus 14:15-16:10
Time: Jan 29, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jan 29, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!