This week’s portion, Beshelach (Exodus 13:17ff) takes us into the beginnings of the active Exodus. The Israelites move on from Egypt, confront the Sea of Reeds, cross and begin their journey with the immediate confrontation with Amalek. The scenes in this portion are filed with situations that speak to our lives; from the carrying of Joseph’s bones, to the Midrash of Nachshon at the edge of the sea, to the song of freedom sung as the Israelites found themselves on the other side of the sea, the Mi Chamocha that we chant at almost every service. (Exodus 15)
In looking again at this portion, I was struck this year by that passage right at the beginning when the Israelites, seeing that Pharaoh’s army was in pursuit, complained to Moses saying “What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt” (14:11) This scene for some reason reminded me of a theme that often comes up in discussions at congregations when we visit for teaching sessions. Faced with the challenges and dangers of a new situation, the people lamented the possibility of the “new”, seeing some false sense of security in the “known”. In many discussions with Boomers around the issue of dealing with our own adult children, this scene was brought to mind. How do we negotiate the fact that our adult children are adults, independent people, in charge their own lives and, despite our best intentions, have to make their own decisions in their own journey. So often we have sat in discussions with our generation and discussed the challenges that our own children often seem to “listen” to our advice, but may not really “hear”. And of course, the challenge for us is to honor their adult-hood and decisions.
This is really another aspect of the parental journey that began many years ago, of letting go and honoring their independence. It is often gratifying and a source of pleasure. It is sometimes frustrating and a source of concern and maybe heartache. Like the Wilderness of which we read in Torah, it is fraught with steps forward and backwards, but, like the Wilderness experience, it goes on and, we hope, is infused with faith and love.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.