Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
This week we read of the miracle at the Red Sea.The hugely popular 20th-century Hasidic master known as The Netivot Shalom teaches that a miracle alters our experience of everyday occurrences, becoming a lens through which we see the world as more wondrous and amazing, ever after the supernatural event has passed. This is what was meant by the phrase in our Torah portion, ”Halchu bayabasha b‘toch hayam” – “They walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.” The People still felt as though they were in the midst of the miracle even after they emerged onto dry land, even after they returned to the realm of the ordinary.
The Piasetzner Rebbe, who died in the Warsaw Ghetto, says something similar. He teaches: While there is a way of seeing and knowing that is like a mere glance, fleeting and quickly disappearing from our consciousness, there’s also a sight that enters our imaginations, arousing love, fear, awe, and joy, moving our souls, and fundamentally changing us. Thereafter, everything we see seems to be related to that profound seeing and knowing. This is the kind sight Jacob experienced during his dream, from which he awoke exclaiming, ”God is in this place, and I did not know it!” This is the kind of sight the Children of Israel experienced at the Red Sea, when, upon witnessing the marvel and the drama, exclaimed, “This is my God!”
The supernatural miracles of our sacred mythology come to sensitize us to the miracles of nature and of every day. They awaken us to Divine presence in our mundane lives and commonplace surroundings, so that seeing a rainbow, for example, or a newborn baby, remind us of the wonder always available to us as in the intricacies of Creation.
The invitation of this week’s Torah experience, as the sea dramatically parts, is to enter an imaginal realm wherein we experience the awe of tsunami-scaled winds swirling, and waters parting to save our lives, and, then, to carry that radical amazement through the parted sea and back to dry land, back to the realm of the real and the ordinary, infusing our perception of the mundane with new astonishment, reverence, and wonder, so that all is more beautiful to us, more precious, and more full of God’s presence.