Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh: Embrace the Music and Dance of Faith
January 13, 2022
What inspires you? How are you empowered? The Beshalach portion of the Torah teaches us the importance of faith, patience, and action. We read about the importance of keeping your word and the importance of singing and dancing. There are times when we find our strength from others, from God and from our own being.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks recounted the Talmudic story of R. Yehoshua ben Hananya, who asked a young man sitting at a crossroads: “Which is the way to the city?
The young man pointed to one of the paths and said, “This path is short but long. The other way is long but short.
Yehoshua ben Hananya took the first path and quickly arrived in the city but found his way blocked by gardens and orchards. He came back to the young man and said to him: “Did you not tell me that this path was short?
“I did it,” the young man said, “but I also warned you that it was a long time. “
We are programmed to be faster and better, often contradictory actions. Fleeing Egypt, “God led the people through a roundabout through the desert of the Red Sea.
First, they remembered to bring with them the bones of Joseph, who had required an oath to take him with them when they left. Commentators suggest many reasons for this slow and long journey. The slow and steady pace could serve to reduce the trauma of the flight from Egypt. The slower pace would allow the people to get used to the taste of freedom. Each step allowed them to experience the miracles of God. As we take our time, we learn the patience that can lead us to faith and, therefore, to action.
At the Sea of Reeds, Moses lifts his arm above the water so people can cross over. Tradition teaches that Moses was saved in an “ark” in the water, so he did not strike it. A beautiful midrash added that the waters did not part until the first faithful soul stepped forward, believing the crossing could be made safely on dry land. There was a time for action and a time for faith.
In chapter 13:21 we read: “God went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire at night, to give them light so that they might travel day and day. night. “
Our ancestors were guided by forces they could not touch. Yet they had the faith to follow the gifts of God. How many times do we feel a light, a force greater than ourselves to make us feel safe? We put one foot in front of the other knowing that our promised land is in front of us. Often, these steps are measured with patience. Isn’t patience a form of faith?
Moses sang to God; Miriam and the woman sang and danced like only free people can. And as only newly freed slaves can do, they demanded water and food, and more water. They were scared. They experienced the passion and the lack of faith almost at the same time.
They fought against the Amalekites, while Moses enlisted the help of Joshua, Aaron, and Hur, knowing that a true leader engages others. We are empowered when we empower others. As he raised his hands upward, the people found faith looking up to a source greater than themselves.
Rabbi Sacks quoted author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, who wrote: “Great leaders touch us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we are talking about strategy, vision or strong ideas. But the reality is much more primitive: good leadership works through emotions.
Patience, passion and faith.
The Israelites were concerned about their basic security needs. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of song. Even in the face of struggle, people found prayer through song and dance.
I am convinced that in the darkest moments of life we must find the faith to sing to God and allow the words, the music, the dance, to encapsulate our very being which has come from the Lord. We find the strength of the silent leader within and of leaders who move forward steadily. We embrace the leader who leads us in the dance and the leader who happily swayes to the beat of the music.
Faith is a gift that must be slowly unwrapped and embraced. It’s a treasure to carry, share and even trade as we grow older.
In the words of the psalmist, “Come, let us sing joyfully to God”.
Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh serves as Temple Emanuel and is a member of the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of St. Louis, which coordinates the d’var Torah for Jewish Light.