Parashat Beshallach – 5778
This week we found ourselves meeting with a series of people running guest houses who had heard about our work and were interested in perhaps hosting meditation groups on premises for guests and for local residents on a regular basis. They are wonderful people and these opportunities are very much in the spirit of our vision for Tal Orot as a society for Jewish meditation. The idea of a society is to be as collaborative and non-hierarchical as possible, where everyone contributes their wisdom and skills. All of the groups we have been blessed to work with so far are exactly that – people of considerable wisdom and skill who share their spiritual insights to advance us all. So the prospect of expanding a mutually supportive spiritual community, be-ezrat HaShem, is exciting.
The Torah in this week’s parashah sums up the response of Bnei Yisrael to their miraculous escape from Egypt through the splitting of the sea:
שמות פרק יד פסוק לא
וירא ישראל את היד הגדלה אשר עשה יקוק במצרים וייראו העם את יקוק ויאמינו ביקוק ובמשה עבדו: פ
And Israel saw the great Hand that HaShem applied in Egypt and the people feared HaShem and trusted in HaShem and in Moshe His servant.
The response of the people is called emunah. This word is sometimes translated in English as “belief.” But belief means to pretend to know something when you don’t really know it – not a very high degree of knowledge. Sometimes this word is translated as “faith,” from the Latin fides, trust and loyalty. The Torah itself, though, at the end of this week’s parashah, gives us the clue to the core meaning of emunah. In the battle against Amalek, the malicious tribe that becomes the arch-enemy of Israel through all generations, Moshe inspires the army of Israel by raising his hands, holding up his staff. When his hands are up Israel prevails, but when he puts his hands down Amalek prevails.
שמות פרק יז פסוק יב
וידי משה כבדים ויקחו אבן וישימו תחתיו וישב עליה ואהרן וחור תמכו בידיו מזה אחד ומזה אחד ויהי ידיו אמונה עד בא השמש:
And Moshe’s hand became heavy, so they took a rock and placed it under him and he sat on it, and Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one from this side and the other from that side, and the hands of Moshe were steady (emunah) until the sun went down.
The core meaning of emunah is steadiness. The term ‘uman, craftsperson, same root, means someone who is steady and skilled with their hands. To be a person of emunah means to be steady in the face of all the uncertainties of life. In relationship with God it means a steady commitment in which we trust the steadiness of God’s care for us. In relationship to another person, it means a steady commitment to the other person reflecting trust in their steady care for us.
The Slonimer Rebbe, ztz”l says that the phrase ויאמינו ביקוק ובמשה עבדו means that Bnei Yisrael, after the splitting of the sea, trusted in HaShem’s love and care for them, realizing that everything HaShem does for this is for their highest good. And Bnei Yisrael trusted in Moshe, realizing that he, too, loved and cared for them, and everything he did was for their welfare. This is one of the great lessons Bnei Yisrael learn on their way to becoming a cohesive nation and a light of all other nations. The revelation at the Sea issues in relationships of mutual trust and commitment – to HaShem and to all others.
Our God-given missions in this world, whatever they are, are furthered through our teamwork with each other – working together in loyalty and trust, in emunah, to face life’s challenges and uncertainties together, to build and fix our world together and advance human welfare and spiritual awareness. The image at the end of the parashah of Yehoshua and Hur helping Moshe keep his hands raised to inspire Am Yisrael is a powerful emblem of this principle. This spirit of mutual support gets tested, refined and strengthened throughout the vicissitudes of our long road together as a nation scattered around the world, but always centered in our Land. It’s the lesson of the unity of Am Yisrael that we learn and relearn whenever we find good people, worthy of trust, with whom to work, with integrity in common cause, for the sake of Am Yisrael and all humanity.
Speaking of sacred teamwork, this spring, we are teaming up with Livnot U’Lehibanot here in beautiful and inspiring Tzfat to host a retreat from May 7-12 for Self Renovation. We will apply the kabbalistic principle of cultivating wholeness in all dimensions of our lives, offering a range of challenging and inspiring activities for refreshing and renovating our spirit, including meditation, hiking, art, music, community service and good camaraderie. There is also an option to extend for two days of intensive meditation. For more information, click this link:
But the revelation at the Sea goes even further… stay tuned for part two in next week’s blog…