Muswell Hill Synagogue
Shelach Korach & Chukat 5/6 & 12/13 July 2024 9.05pm & 9.00pm 10.23pm & 10.16pm

Beshalach and the Journey

Last Shabbat was The United Synagogue’s Women’s Shabbat. Ruth Jampel, our Women’s Officer, gave this sermon:

This Shabbat  is the United Synagogue Women’s Shabbat and we’ve just heard about two  amazing women, Miriam and Devorah. In some shuls special events are taking place. In our shul women are actively involved in so many communal and religious events on a regular basis – womens’s services, the megillah reading , the Women’s Rosh Chodesh group, and so much more… However, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance of speaking from here to mark the event !

As we’ve just heard, in this week’s Parasha, Beshalach, so much happens…We are in the midbar ,in the midst of the exodus, on our journey from slavery in Mitzraim to nationhood at Har Sinai, ,with Eretz  Yisrael as our ultimate destination. The sea is  split, the rock is hit, manna is given, and we complain….a lot.In the Book of Shmot, this state-less place of journeying, in this travelling through the desert with all the trials and tribulations that beset us, we see the Children of Israel  becoming the Jewish  people.

The journey is part of the destination. Yes ,we are walking towards the  Covenant and revelation  at  Har Sinai  and our ultimate  destination in Eretz Yisrael, and yet this  journey is part of the  destination too; important national characteristics are being formed and strengthened .  We were a disparate group of people in Egypt. Now we are  actively becoming  a nation  with a joint destination ,a destiny.

This idea of the journey being part of the destination resonates with me in relation to  where we are as a shul.

Soon we will lose our Rabbi and we are already embarking on the process of trying to find a new one. Just as we were leaving Egypt and en route to Israel, the time inbetween wasn’t dead time…it was action- packed  with so many  momentous and miraculous events.

In fact, most of the Torah takes place in this middle time.

Miracles are witnessed, huge biblical figures come to play the Torah is received, the Mishcan is built.

At the start of the sedra “we are sent”- beshalach .It’s intersting to me that having craved an end to slavery for hundreds of years we actually have to be sent away by  Pharoah– we still have a passive mentality. In fact, I think having been an enslaved people is as much a part of our shared Jewish identity as having  the state of Israel, yet, it is here, in the midbar ,in the desert, that in so many ways our identity was formed.

To draw a parallel,  we are about to be without a rabbi and some people may view this as a desert -like time, and yet we must seize this upcoming  part of our journey as a community as part of our destination too, as a  real opportunity to think about who we are, what we want to be, and how we can communally achieve this during the time we are rabbi-less.

The process of thinking about chosing a new rabbi has just begun, and during this period we will have a chance to think about what really matters to us as a community, AND we will be tested….We will need to  actively  step into many more roles within our rabbi-less dessert.. We will have to be active participants, not passive people in Egypt. , In fact ,this is  a great chance for us to become more active participants in our shul experience …Of course ,so many people already do lots of things for us all at Shul, which we happily and passively accept … the kiddush team, the security team, and of course Neil and Steve. However, we may be  rabbi -less for  quite a few months and  many more people will be needed…. to actively lead services, to leyn,to deliver sermons,to lead services at shiva houses, to comfort mourners,  to  address, bar and bat mitzvah boys and  girls. More women leyners will be needed to fill Elisheva’s place, more people will be needed  to take children and family services ,and so on.We must try and see this is an opportunity.

Of course, we will be  so  sad to see Rabbi David go ,and  in our soon-to-be rabbi-less state we will come to appreciate anew all he has done for us, just as in Lockdown  home-schooling  parents came to appreciate all that teachers do for their children.

Perhaps this journeying in a rabbi- less desert will help us forge an even stronger community.

In fact, no one person alone can carry a community.We have just heard that Moshe Rabbeinu himself needed Aharon and Chur to hold up his arms whilst Joshua took on Amalek….

Next week, Parsha Yitro will be the huge moment when we receive the 10 Commandments, but it’s also a time when Yitro tells Moshe that he needs to delegate ,that not one person can do everything ,that other people need to take on roles and responsibilities .

So, in these next few months we too can forge and strengthen and consolidate our community ,and  use the journey towards a new rabbi and rebbetzen  as a chance to reach our own destination en route.