Beshalach – Epic Emancipation

17 So it was when Pharaoh released the people, … 18 God directed the people through the desert to the Reed Sea … 21 YHWH went before them in a pillar of cloud by day to guide them on the way and by night in a pillar of fire to illuminate their travel, day and night.

Exodus 13

Illustrious myth of emancipation: we are slaves no longer! Not sure of anything yet, we are just a people looking for freedom. . We did not expect miracles but then they began to appear around us. We are part of an astounding spectacle which it is behind us and in front of us, all at the same moment. Swirling columns of energy, enormous in magnitude, whirl around us, former slaves.

9 The Egyptians chased after them, they (all of Pharaoh’s chariots and cavalry and forces) caught up to them camping at the sea…

Exodus 14

Suddenly we are standing in a perilous position between our past and our future. We are not an army, we brought dough to make bread and a few animals and our children. Everyone begins to shiver and shake.

21 As Moses stretched out his arm above the sea, YHWH reverted the sea with a strong wind from the east all night, this dried up the sea and split the waters. 22  And the children of Israel walked on the dry land in the sea for the waters were walls to their right and to their left.

Exodus 14

The entire company around us breathes in the strength that it needs to continue. We forge on into the unknown with each precarious step we take. Holding our breath and holding each hand around us. Are we screaming or crying or running or walking? We just keep moving forward on the damp riverbed, while mad walls of liquid energy surround us.

31 Israel saw the great gesture that YHWH did in Egypt; the people were in awe of YHWH so they trusted in YHWH and Moses his servant.

Exodus 14

Incredulous, we are on the other side of the sea, so we are driven to sing:

1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to YHWH. They said this: I will sing for YHWH’s glorious triumphs; the horse and rider were hurled into the sea.

Exodus 15

First we are driven to sing by our leader Moses, and then led to dance by our prophet Miriam:

20 Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; she and all of the women came after her with drums and dancing.

Exodus 15

This song still rings in the ears of those who listen. These words still resonate out of time and space. Steps reverberate in and out of history, joining with the cosmic dance of all oppressed people who seek freedom.

21 Miriam chanted to them: Sing for YHWH’s glorious triumphs; ; the horse and rider were hurled into the sea.

Exodus 15

We exalted our rescue after passing through the sea, even though the soldiers of our oppressor had drowned. Trauma and triumph were too hard to separate at that moment. We slaves have been transformed into a free people singing of salvation—theirs and ours and everyone’s. No first or greatest, we were all together at that moment.

What might the song sound like? Like a rolling wave rushing to the shore and flowing onto the sand.

What might the dance look like? Like a vast meadow—a million flowers all blooming and swaying, a carpet in the sunshine.

How might that momentous day have begun? Like the birth of a galaxy—expanding in brilliance creating light and hope.

Magnificently colored sky

How should that incredible day have ended? Like the sigh of an exhausted baby before falling asleep to dream about the unfathomable future.

Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021