Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parashat Re'eh- Imagining Our Own Redemption


Va’avartem et-haYardein vishavtem ba’aretz asher-Adonai Eloheikhem manchil etkhem v’heini’ach lakhem mikol-oyveikhem misaviv viyshavtem-betach.
And you will cross over the Jordan and settle in the land that Adonai your God causes you to inherit, and He will give you rest from all your enemies around, and you will dwell in safety. (D’varim 12:10)
When God brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, they came to the shores of the Reed Sea. Caught between the water and the pursuing Egyptian army, the Israelites cowered in fear. They were angry at their situation, at Moshe and at God. The text tells us that Moshe stretched his staff over the water. The wind blows, and eventually the sea splits. The Midrash, however, fills in the details. Midrash teaches that Nachshon ben Aminadav took a first step. He waded into the water determined not to go back to slavery and oppression. At first nothing happened. Nachshon continued in. Still, nothing happened. Nachshon moved further still. Only when the water was up to his nose, only when his choice was to sink or swim, only when God saw that he, though afraid, wad determined to follow this path, did the sea finally split.
Right now the verse, “And you will cross over the Jordan and settle in the land that Adonai your God causes you to inherit, and He will give you rest from all your enemies around, and you will dwell in safety.” Seems ironic at best and an outright lie at worst. With the horror of the terror tunnels and a Rosh Hashanah attack fresh in our minds, how can we see rest from our enemies? With the threat of missiles being launched at our people, how can we dwell in safety? I imagine this may have been similar to what the Israelites must have felt stuck between the dual threats of the sea and the Egyptian army. I assume they too felt the helplessness that I, and many others, have felt this summer. But then, one man realized that feeling helpless did not have to equal feeling hopeless. Nachshon ben Aminadav set out in the worst of situations to take control and determine his own future. In Birkat HaMazon there are additional short prayers added after the required brachot. One of these says, “Harachaman, Hu y’vareikh et-M’dinat Yisrael, reishit tz’michat g’ulateinu.” “May the Compassionate One bless the State of Israel, the beginning of the promise of our redemption.” Redemption is not easy. We are caught between the sea of public opinion and the armies of terrorism. So many of us feel helpless. We are angry. We are afraid. But we must not be hopeless. So many times we have stood on this precipice. Each time we have moved forward. Although we feel the waves bombarding us, we must continue in, moving forward, knowing that our actions determine our own redemption.