Sunday, January 26, 2014

Exodus 4: Multiple Pathways to Freedom

Beshalah/Sent out (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

They arrived at Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 date palms; they camped there by the water. (Exodus: 15:27)

We heard the Torah portion Beshalah read in our hotel synagogue by the water of the Dead Sea near the springs and date palms of an oasis.
Beshalah ushers in Tu Beshvat, the new year of the trees.

We enjoy the ad hoc assembly of Jews in Israeli hotel synagogues where guests representing 70 lands of origin join together as one people.
Torah commentator Rashi (11th century France) writes that the 12 springs symbolize the 12 Israelite tribes, representing alternative viewpoints.

The Talmud teaches that there are 70 facets to Torah each revealing a fresh viewpoint to be savored like date honey.
After crossing the Red Sea into the Sinai desert, Miriam led the Israelites in song and dance to celebrate multiple pathways to freedom.

It [Torah] is a tree of life for those who grasp it …. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. (Proverbs 3:18, 17)
A righteous person will flourish like a date palm. (Psalm 92)

And he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, toward the stream spreading its roots, and it shall not notice the heat's arrival, and its foliage shall be fresh. (Jeremiah 17:8) 
We photographed the springs, date palms, cacti, and ibex in the Ein Gedi oasis in a most desolate desert at the lowest spot on Planet Earth.