Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: BeShalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)What’s Your Song?

How should we react when we see or hear of our enemy’s demise? Thousands of years ago King Solomon advised:Do not rejoice at your enemy’s downfall, and when he stumbles let your heart not be joyous, lest the G-d see and be displeased and turn back His anger from him [to you] (Proverbs 24:17-18).This statement tells us not to gloat over the downfall of our enemy, even though the downfall seems well deserved. Not only should we be careful not to rejoice, we should pause for a moment and think; “do I deserve all the kindness I receive every day?” When a company has an audit and fires one of its truck drivers because it was revealed through the truck’s GPS that the driver was going to places off his route for personal reason on company time. A wise executive in the company, one with a generous expense account, should stop for a moment and think of all the times he wasn’t using company time valuably and maybe even stretched his expense account to cover some personal expenses. Although he wasn’t caught, it’s a pensive moment. Instead of thinking of how the truck driver deserved to be fired, the executive might be grateful that no one scrutinized how he has used his time or expense account.The Talmud states that when the Egyptians were drowning in the sea, the angels wanted to sing their daily song of praise to G-d but G-d quieted them saying: “My creations are drowning in the sea, and you are singing?!” One of history’s most wicked nations was finally getting their well-deserved fate-but G-d didn’t want anyone to have pleasure in the process.
Now that we know that G-d doesn’t want us to rejoice at the downfall of our enemies, it seems odd that Moses and his sister, Miriam, led the Jewish nation in the Song of the Sea at the very moment that the angels were chastised for doing so. If the angels shouldn’t sing, how could they?
The answer is that the Jews of that generation sang not as a form of gloating over their enemies but because they had witnessed G-d’s rescuing them. They, not angels, were enslaved and deprived of the most basic human dignities and therefore felt a special connection to G-d. In a moment of inspiration, they were able to grasp the big picture. Events had unfolded before their eyes and they realized that far beyond their puny comprehension, G-d had been orchestrating these and other events all along. Hundreds of years of exile and suffering had been purposeful and a part of G-d’s master plan. The Almighty had been purifying them in the crucible of Egypt, slowly molding them into His nation; preparing them for the moment when they had the opportunity to ‘see’ their Creator face to face.
This lofty relationship was applicable for the Jews of that generation, but what message does it have for us? Singing and crying are human reactions at being overcome with emotion. At the Sea, the Jews were able to catch a glimpse of G-d’s guiding force and how it was far beyond their limited comprehension. They were overwhelmed and sang in joy but this experience was a spiritual gift given to the people of that generation. However, in our times, our day to day spiritual growth is basically commensurate with our efforts -whatever work we put in will be proportionate with our results. Supernatural events no longer occur and therefore having a meaningful spiritual life is a labor-intensive process. Some people spend their lives waiting for a spiritual moment, revelation or vision but they are mistaken. Only by focusing on who we are and consciously working to improve our most important areas of life like marriage, personal relationships, integrity, caring for others and sharing their burden, can we reap spiritual benefits. We should also concentrate on what we have such as health, a house to live in, a sunset, or good friends. We don’t need to see a sea splitting to sing; we have opportunities every day if we are willing to see them and take action. What makes you want to break out in song? What fills your heart and mind with such depth that would make you want to sing? What is your song? Good Shabbos
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 Good Shabbos
Rabbi Oppenheim
Charlotte Torah Center