Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Beshalach - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, because this week's Torah portion contains the song that the Israelites, led by Moses and Miriam, sang upon crossing the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his people had asked the Israelites to leave Egypt following the plague of the Death of the First Born. When they realized that the Israelites were not coming back, Pharaoh and his people had a change of heart and pursued the Israelites as they were crossing the sea. When the Israelites saw their former masters drowning in the sea, they burst into a song - "Shiru Ladonay Kee Gaoh Ga-ah" - "Sing unto G-d for He is highly exalted, the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea."

This Shabbat happens to also be the fifteenth day in the month of Shevat, known as Tu Bishvat, the Jewish Arbor Day. In many synagogues, a Tu Bishvat Seder is held, with readings praising G-d for the gifts found in nature.

The song by the sea was the Israelites' way of expressing their joy and gratitude for finally being free. They witnessed the miracle by the sea that brought to an end the long period of slavery in Egypt. The message for us is to recognize that we too have many 'Crossings by the Sea' for which we should be grateful and be moved to sing. They may seem natural, but nature is one of the biggest miracles in life. Our health, family, friends, abilities, jobs, celebrations, contributions to others, all these are blessings that should make us feel fortunate and appreciative for the gifts that G-d has bestowed upon us.

On Shabbat Shirah, we remember not only the historical one, but also an opportunity for us to reflect on our life and experiences. A chance to stop and smell the flowers, to count our blessings and be ready to sing joyfully, alone or with our family, friends and community.

May you find many opportunities for joyful celebrations.

Shabbat Shalom,