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On slavery, the Exodus and taking the plunge

On slavery, the Exodus and taking the plunge


Passage of the Jews by means of the Red Sea, 1891 by Ivan AivazovskyWikimedia Commons

Jewish tutorial and Hebrew scholar Irene Lancaster displays on the Exodus of the Israelites and what actual freedom is.

We’re not out of the woods but. That is what the youngsters of Israel expertise in final week’s Torah portion. The 10 plagues are over and performed with, however are the individuals actually free? What seems to be the case might become illusory.

Last week’s Torah portion, recognized in Hebrew as Beshallach (Exodus 13:17-17:16) describes how ‘when Pharaoh sends out the Jewish individuals’ G-d guides them by means of the Wilderness, relatively than ‘by the best way of the land of the Philistines’ (on the ‘war-torn’ west coast), so they’re directed as an alternative to the Sea of Reeds.

G-d then ensures that the persons are chased by Pharoah’s chariots, in order that they wheel spherical, pitching their camp ‘earlier than Pi Hachirot’, an Egyptian city, renamed in Hebrew ‘Gateway to Freedom’. According to the foremost Biblical commentator, Rashi (1040-1105), this spot was the border metropolis of Pitom, the very metropolis the place the enslaved kids of Israel had laboured for Pharaoh. How ironic that this was the very spot the place the individuals needed to make up their minds – to remain, or to go?

This Torah studying of the youngsters of Israel considering they’re free however having to take care of Pharoah’s military coincides with the favored Jewish pageant of Tu B’Shvat, New Year for Trees. Why ought to the story of escape and derring-do have something to do with the onset of spring in Israel, with the sighting of the primary almond, an occasion so vital for Jews that the very first Knesset (Israeli Parliament) was inaugurated on Tu B’Shvat, and celebrated with the planting of almond timber.

First of all, what’s a tree? A tree is a pure phenomenon with splendid branches and blossoms, absolutely seen to the surface world. But what retains the tree alive? Sustainable roots hidden underground.

The hidden roots are important to the well-being of the entire; with out the roots, the tree withers and dies. This is the hyperlink. At floor stage, the individuals might imagine they’re free, however except the persons are firmly rooted, identical to the tree they may wither and die. This is the lesson imparted by each the Torah studying and by the pageant of Tu B’Shvat.

Last week, on the eve of Tu B’Shvat, a Parliamentary committee in London met to debate a Hybrid Bill. This Bill was involved with the constructing of an intrusive and ungainly development (ostensibly with a ‘Holocaust’ theme) in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, thus turning this particular inexperienced oasis right into a Disney-like ‘Holocaust’ theme park.

Were this ill-thought-out operation to go forward, not solely would it not desecrate the Shoah, however would additionally entail digging underground and destroying plenty of much-loved historic timber which give the park its raison d’etre. During this listening to, due to this fact, plenty of panorama and tree consultants defined the significance of retaining timber as a vital a part of the park, and famous that digging underground for no matter cause would injury the roots – and to what finish?

And ‘to what finish’ is the ethical of final week’s Torah studying. What is the purpose of freedom in case you can merely then do what you want. If selfishness is your objective, you then may as nicely return to servitude, as an alternative of utilizing this freedom as a way to improve life. Just as plenty of witnesses demonstrated final week that the previous methods of commemorating the Holocaust (together with the erection of big constructions and imposition of irrelevant educating strategies) are not match for objective, so, in final week’s Torah studying, a brand new path by means of the ocean have to be charted to ensure that the youngsters of Israel to hold on surviving in a hostile world.

Beshallach due to this fact charts the ups and down, the one step ahead and two steps again mentality of the people who find themselves now wending their manner laboriously by means of the desert for 40 years. Because the primary factor is to take care of the roots, after which the branches and blossoms will take care of themselves.

But, how do the individuals really really feel after they understand they must cross the Reed Sea, with Pharoah’s chariots chasing behind them. How can the weak and susceptible slaves take care of the highly effective who wish to draw them again into their very own sphere, into the previous methods of considering, not match for objective?

G-d is aware of this and due to this fact performs a miracle by splitting the ocean. But the individuals, nonetheless tied to their slavish mentality, do not perceive this miracle till they themselves make the leap. Did they know that they had been a part of a miracle? Anyone who has swum in uncalm seas is aware of the sensation of getting to take care of the waves, or else go beneath. But the youngsters of Israel be taught to take a leap of religion, and it’s after they take that leap of religion that the miracle unfolds earlier than them.

That’s what we felt like final week, when a path appeared in Parliamentary proceedings and a manner out of the ‘Sea of Reeds’ was solid by tree consultants and 4 Holocaust survivors alike, who advised their tales and let rip. They let rip towards the philosophy which is holding us again. We skilled maybe the primary glimpse of a chance of actual freedom within the Promised Land, celebrating not the dying, however the dwelling creativity of the Jewish group .

The historic Egyptians celebrated dying – that’s what the pyramids are for – whereas Jews have a good time life. Life is a backyard that have to be nurtured. Trees are of overwhelming significance in Judaism – tree planting was important to increase the brand new Jewish State, and Tu B’Shvat is a real celebration of latest budding life and the probabilities this new life entails. As lengthy because the tree is firmly rooted within the floor, new blossoms might seem. But destroy the roots and the need to reside is eradicated – possibly for ever.

So the youngsters of Israel sing the Song of the Sea, led first by Moses their chief after which by his sister, Miriam, who had saved him as a child from the dying edict of Pharaoh. ‘Sing to the Lord for He is exalted above the smug, having hurled horse with its rider into the ocean.’

Who are the smug in our personal day? It is probably unwise to take a position. However, we be taught from this seminal passage that being a part of a bandwagon is not all the time a good suggestion. And who is aware of, possibly as soon as we make the leap, life will open up in methods unimaginable.



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