BeShallach (Shabbat Shira) 5783
Ex. 13:17 – 17:16
Rabbi Gary Pokras
This week we celebrate one of the most wondrous miracles of all: the parting of the Reed Sea . So extraordinary is this event in Torah, that we call this Shabbat a special name – Shabbat Shira. The Hebrew word shira means “song,” and this Shabbat is named for the song Moses sang after we all passed through and reached safety. It is hard to imagine the impact of this moment, but Moses’ song gives us hint – using beautiful and flowery language to poetically describe the grandeur and triumph of God’s awesome power. Indeed, the majestic Mi Kamocha prayer consists of a series of short excerpts from Shirat HaYam, Moses’ Song at the Sea.
Rabbi Gila Ruskin teaches us to delight in the moment, sharing in the amazement of our ancestors. Yet, she also reminds us that soon enough, the Israelite’s awe will be replaced by fear, hunger and thirst as we wander through the Wilderness. Yes, we should memorialize this moment, but real life isn’t just about the rarest of high points. She writes:
Note the “oohs” and “aahs” at a fireworks display. The pyrotechnic bursts of color against a dark sky excite us to great exclamations of wonder. And yet, how many “oohs” and “aahs” do we emit when the starter ignites in our cars as we drive home? Both are lit miraculously by sparks, but only the resplendent one in the sky inspires us to shout.1
The real trick is not just to recognize the big miracles, but to celebrate the little things we far too often take for granted. In other words, we should strive to live a life of radical gratitude through our recognition of the thousands of tiny miracles that surround us each and every day. As Ben Zoma taught almost 2000 years ago:
How many labors did Adam have to engage in before he obtained bread to eat! He plowed, he sowed, he reaped; he stacked the sheaves, threshed the grain winnowed the chaff, selected the good ears, ground [them], sifted [flour], kneaded the dough, and baked. And only then did he eat. Whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. How many labors did Adam have to engage in before he obtained a garment to wear! He sheared the sheep, washed [the wool], combed it, spun it, wove it, dyed the cloth, and sewed it. And only then did he have a garment to wear. Whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of craftsmen come early to the door of my house, and when I rise in the morning, I find all these things ready for me.
[Talmud Balvi, Berachot 58a.]
We surely walk in the midst of wonders great and small:
Mi Kamochah Adonai! Who is like you Oh God, among the gods that are worshipped? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders?