Parsha_Push for Beshalach - Matan - The Sadie Rennert
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Parsha_Push for Beshalach

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

If one would define “Matan Torah” as the People of Israel’s bar or bat mitzvah, then we could define this week’s parsha as early childhood. Even though after accepting the mitzvot, parents still need – sometimes painstakingly so – to educate their adolescent child, “chinuch” begins much before. As we see in our parsha, the education process begins before the official giving of the Torah and focuses on food.

The parent-child encounter is one of charity and judgement, provision and boundaries. The same goes for God and his firstborn, Israel. After taking the People from the Egyptian contractions, through the breaking water of the sea, He births them into a new reality of symbiotic connection. And here, before official definitions of right and wrong, a relationship is built around basic sustenance.

Whenever they feel they are lacking something, the people of Israel will cry out. Then they will receive the Divine reaction, which includes both supplying their needs and giving them a lesson. These lessons accustom the people to the ways of God. Together with the water they will receive a “nisayon” – a trial or experience of “law and justice”, learning – according to Ramban – how to correctly ask for the water and then divide it among themselves. While being granted the heavenly bread, they will get used to equal portions and to sufficing with the bare necessities. They will practice behaviors and adopt the concepts of Shabbat.

One cannot receive the Torah in one day or embrace new habits all at once. Despite the belief that the Torah embodies eternal truth, internalizing its behaviors and messages is a journey, done through little steps and accompanied by trial and error, experience and practice, together with positive reinforcements of God’s blessing when we succeed.

In these days we struggle with the need to change our habitual arguments and our tendency to embrace controversy; we are called to reexamine our conceptions and beliefs. This won’t be achieved in one day. It requires the willingness to practice slightly different behaviors, to rehearse a certain patience, to be willing to move beyond our automatic responses. It will take time, but like the people of Israel in the desert, we have the opportunity to start the journey.

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

Rabbanit Dr. Adina Sternberg

was in the first cohort of the Matan Kitvuni Fellowship program and her book is in the publication process. She has a B.A. in Bible from Hebrew University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University. Adina studied in Midreshet Lindenbaum, Migdal Oz, Havruta and the Advanced Talmud Institute in Matan. She currently teaches Bible and Talmud at Matan, and at Efrata and Orot colleges. Adina lives in Adam (Geva Binyamin) with her family.