Rabbi Miriam's Blog
This week’s parsha, BeShalach, chronicles the events immediately after the Israelites leave Egypt and go into the wilderness. In summary: Pharaoh has a change of heart and sets his armies out to kill or recapture the Israelites who become trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Sea of Reeds. The Sea is split and allows the Israelites to pass through to safety while the Egyptians who give chase bog down in the mud and drown as the waters turn back. The Israelites break out into celebration with song and dance. While safe from Pharaoh, they enter the wilderness, the unknown, where danger lurks in the form of Amelek – pure evil.
A revolutionary wave of demonstrations swept across the world beginning in 2010 and continuing to this day. Many took the first steps into the unknown place on their way to freedom. Since then, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Protests and civil uprisings took place in Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Syria - All these in the name of freedom.
As you read this, I am on the Thai/Burma border working with refugees from a civil war that has been raging since the end of WW2. I will be witness to the hopes, joys, pain and suffering of people living under oppression of biblical proportions. Week -by-week as I read about the exodus in Torah, about the Israelite struggle and their path to freedom, I am struck by the parallels and differences in today’s changing world. They have “pharaohs” who don’t want to let them go. They have “Amalek” , the unrestrained evil which thrives when there is no “Torah” – no rule of law. The liberation of a people is a brilliant display of God’s hand in the affairs of man. The initial wave of light is so bright the whole world can see it. It moves all of humanity to lift the fallen; and the fallen to stand with hope and purpose.
When the Israelites saw the miracles the Lord had performed for them they broke out in celebration. Miriam led the women in dance and song. We too celebrate - but with caution, as the hearts of the pharaohs of the modern world are hardened.
“The Lord stiffened the heart of Pharaoh”. (Shemot 14.8)
We learn from Torah that the light of the Lord is a shadow to the wicked. Despotic leaders, our modern Pharaohs, do not rejoice with the masses as they mark their moment in history with celebration. Their “chariots” and armies are not stopped by miracles.
“Amelek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.” (Shemot 17.8)
Within Pharaoh is a shadow - a darkness in which evil can flourish. Amelek exists in the evil of opportunists who do their work in the dark, exploiting uncertain situations and preying upon the weak and the vulnerable. Evil and Amelek attack the weak and flourish in darkness. We, therefore, must bring our light, the light of freedom, the light of God to illuminate the shadows.
We can take an action today that will increase the light. We can let our voices be heard. Today, call your elected leaders and let them know that you support freedom for all peoples. We can also support organizations in our community that seek to provide comfort and healing to the victims. It is only when we take action that we become part of “the great miracle”. Take action now and join together to dance and sing in celebration! Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and ask the Obama administration to use its financial as well as global political resources to end to the atrocities being perpetrated on the ethnic minorities in Myanmar.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.