- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On February 7, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
The Israelite people have finally left Egypt in this week’s Torah portion. But they do not get far without feeling the rumbling of the ground under their feet or hearing the thumping sounds of the Pharaoh’s chariots and horses. The former slaves reacted predictably. They were afraid.
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Eternal. And they said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?” But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by, and witness the deliverance which the LORD will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again…”(Exodus 14:10-13)
The Hebrew word used for frightened yee-re-u וַיִּֽירְא֥וּ also means awed. It does not seem likely that the ancient Israelites felt awe at that moment. Instead, they feared for their lives. In their moment of panic, they longed for what they knew, even if it meant the brutal reality of slavery. Moses responded by telling them not to be frightened, using the same word to describe the emotions the Israelites felt. God had a different strategy.
Then the Eternal said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. (14:14)
These freed slaves needed to proceed despite and maybe because of their fear. They could not let their fear paralyze them into doing nothing.
By the end of this same chapter, the Israelites will witness the destruction of their oppressors, arrive to the other side of the sea to experience that same fear, but this time with awe attached.
And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the Eternal had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared yee-re-u וַיִּֽירְא֥וּ the Eternal; they had faith in the Eternal and [God’s] servant Moses. (14:31)
Their awe supported by faith turns to joy and triumph.
But, their awe is fleeting because their stomachs grumbled and their thirst overwhelmed them. Up to this point they had looked behind them: first at Pharaoh’s army and then at the sea as it closed in on their former taskmasters.
The story takes a turn. Their heads turn toward what is in front of them. It is the wilderness, the open space of possibility, and full of the unknown. They have known great fear. As they move forward, the potential of their awe drives them. These newly freed Israelites will revert back to fear but when awe and faith accompany it, their world will change.
Torah awaits them.
Join together for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Live stream HERE. Riverway Shabbat will be taking place at 7:00 p.m.
Torah study starts at 9:00 a.m. Saturday with a short service followed by a lively discussion. The Village Prayground will take place from 2:30-5:30 p.m.
Don’t forget to vote for the World Zionist Congress HERE. We hope that you will support the Reform ticket (Option Two, ARZA: Representing Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism). If you have any questions, please contact Amy Sherr.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections HERE.