Beshalach

The transformation of the people from slavery to freedom is ecstatic, accompanied by spontaneous outbursts of song and dance. However, within days they are doubtful again. At this point, they are given their first commandment as a free people: rest on Shabbat. Both work and freedom are given temporal limits. Why is this so urgent? Because true freedom is neither anarchy, nor should it become an ideology (think of the tyranny of freedom fighters around the world). It is life, it is how humankind expresses its humanity. A nation of slaves needs to relearn the boundaries and structures of freedom, in order to reach their fullest human potential, integrating a spiritual appreciation of miracles with a practical commitment to action.

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[Inspired by: Nicolas Poussin’s ‘The Jews Gathering the Manna in the Desert‘; Exodus 15 and the insistence of the Talmud and commentators that ‘law’ in 15:25 refers to Shabbat; Avishai Schreiber on ‘Teaching devotion in a post-modern world‘.]

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