Parashat B'shalah

Nothing Is Unchangeable

If a sea can split, anything is possible.

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Life can change in the Global South through human deeds. We can take action through advocacy, service, and education. Changes that would transform the quality of life in the world's poorest countries are not only necessary, but possible.

The world's poorest countries currently spend billions of dollars to pay off old debts to wealthy nations like the United States. Debt relief would expand the horizons of the Global South much as the parting of the Sea of Reeds did for the Israelites. Imagine how access to HIV treatment, education for women, and food security would throw open the boundaries of our shared global community.

A Wonderful Realization

The Israelites responded to the splitting of the sea with songs of praise. The Midrash teaches that this was the first time people collectively praised God. "Ah, this," says God in the Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 23:4), "is what I have been waiting for!"

What exactly was God waiting for? Certainly God was not in need of human praise. Rather, God was waiting for humanity to recognize that the borders of our world are never fixed. And God was waiting for us to respond to this knowledge with awe and with action.

The miracle of the Sea of Reeds is not just that the ocean parted. After all, an omnipotent God could split the Sea at any time. The miracle is that the Israelites saw the ocean divide and, despite everything they had been taught about the way the world works, they charged forward into the narrow dry path which appeared like a sliver of hope between the waves. 

This week, as we hear the story of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, may each of us realize that the horizons of our world are broader than we think: oceans can crack open, diseases can be eradicated, and the balance of world wealth can be shifted. And may we respond to this wonderful realization as the Israelites did at the Sea of Reeds--with acts of justice and with shouts of joy.

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Rabbi Elliot R. Kukla

Rabbi Elliot Kukla is a rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco.