B’Shalach: On The Shoulders of Our Elders

This Shabbat, The Torah brings us to those dramatic scenes of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and the crossing which concludes with our song of liberation, the “Mi Camocha” which we sing each Shabbat. Commentaries are many regarding the events that surround this mystical story. Yet, once again, let me focus, for us, on a small verse from the beginning of the passage. The text tells us that Moses and the people go up from Egypt “And Moses took the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel saying ‘God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you” (Exodus 13:19). A Midrash reflects on the fact that Moses was fulfilling the desire of Joseph. Yet, another interpretation also rings true for us today.
In his wonderful book of interpretations of Torah, Rabbi Abraham Twerski. quoting another Midrash, notes that Moses, who did not know where Joseph was buried, consulted Search, the daughter of Asher, who was the only survivor of Joseph’s generation. It was Serach who told Moses where Joseph was buried. Twerski asks the question of why Moses just did not ask God where Joseph was? After all, he notes, Moses spoke with God often. Why go to someone? Twerksi states that: “The Midrash is teaching us an important principle.There are some things we can learn only from our elders, from those of previous generations, and that cannot be acquired in any other way, not even by Divine inspiration.” (“Living Each Week”: Rabbi Abraham J. Twrski, MD. Artscroll. p.139)
We are reminded that if we fail to ask and listen, record and learn from the experiences of the past; from the people who were “there”, we make the mistake of repeating the same things. We “know” this intellectually, yet often fail to live it. This is another testimony to the power of learning from life experience and to honoring those who lived history. How “coincidental” that this portion of Torah is read this week on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz. How striking were the speeches warning us to be careful that history could repeat itself. We would be wise to heed the words of those who walked that land and who experienced that horror.
Shalom and Shavuah Tov
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.MIn

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