Shabbat Shira - Beshalach

Posted on January 14th, 2019

Exodus 13:17-17:16

By Joel Hecker, Ph.D., for Reconstructing Judaism

Evil and Compassion: Two Sides of One Staff

“Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it apart, that the Israelites may come into the midst of the sea on dry land” (Exodus 14:16).

What is the nature of this staff? Is it a walking stick? Sign of God’s power? Or magical device?

The Zohar, the central text of Jewish mysticism that first appeared in Castile in the late 13th century, has a uniquely challenging teaching about the staff. But first some background. In Exodus 4:2–5 we read the following dialogue between Moshe and God: “‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ He said, ‘Fling it to the ground.’ And he flung it to the ground and it became a snake and Moshe fled from it. YHVH said to Moshe, ‘Reach out your hand and grasp its tail.’ And he reached out his hand and held it and it became a staff in his grip.”

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Posted on January 7th, 2019

Exodus 10:1−13:16 

By Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben for Reconstructing Judaism

Responsibility and the Hardened Heart

“How do you know when you have really grown up?” I remember being asked that question one evening by one of my 10th grade Confirmation students, and how it produced one of the most thoughtful and reflective discussions we had that entire year. 

Most of the students (all 15-year-olds), one after the other, expressed in the strongest of language their desire to grow up and their eagerness to be independent of their parents, to be treated “like adults,” to be trusted by their parents and shown respect by the adults with whom they came in contact at school or in the community. 

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Posted on December 31st, 2018

Exodus 6:2-9:35 

By Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben for Reconstructing Judaism

Naming the Divine

Names are very important. They have a power all their own. There are names that inspired revolutions and overturned entire civilizations. There are names that have struck terror into the hearts of all who heard them. And of course there are many who claim that the sweetest sound that a human being ever hears is the sound of his or her own name.

Some names reveal the hidden dreams and fantasies of the parents who gave them. Other names reflect a new lease on life, the feeling of unlimited possibilities or the search for a new identity. People take on names to help change their personality, inspire a new way of thinking, let go of the past, or signal a new or unique interpersonal relationship. Names remind us of who we are and who we might yet be.

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Posted on December 24th, 2018

Exodus 1:1−6:1 

By Rabbi Lewis Eron for Reconstructing Judaism

Trapped In Our Own Lies

One of the sad ironies of leadership is that leaders frequently come to believe the lies they tell and then make “reasoned” decisions based on those lies, often with disastrous results. As rulers of all sorts trick us by manipulating with such powerful emotions, such as our fear of strangers and our worry for our security, they, too, are tricked. They come to believe their own tales, get entangled in their lies. Terrible things happen, suffering increases, and policies built on lies lead, all too often, to disgrace, dishonor and defeat. 

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Posted on December 17th, 2018

Genesis 47:28–50:26 


By Rabbi Lewis Eron for Reconstructing Judaism

The Goal of Life

The goal of Jewish life is to embody Torah, the living word of the living God addressed to all creation through the life and experience of Am Yisrael, the Jewish people. This Jewish insight teaches us that as Jews we have the opportunity to take the wisdom of our tradition and make it real in the world in which we live. What we say and what we do is consequential. By making the spiritual and ethical insights of our Torah the foundation of our lives, we transcend our human limits. We connect ourselves to God, and can join our people's prophets, priests, kings, heroes and sages as one of those who live and teach Torah. 

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