Midrash Beshallach



WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?

Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.

“Many readers of this parashah [portion] wonder about the historicity of the Exodus story,” writes Sharon R. Keller in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, saying that the tale is essentially a people’s memory of their collective past. “The historical accuracy of the account is unimportant, for it has no bearing on the story’s core message or its themes.”

Although the Exodus is a specifically Jewish story, its themes — liberation, deliverance, freedom from oppression — are universal. Asking whether they are true-with-a-capital-T is like asking if the tales of Camelot were true, or Odysseus, or Harry Potter. They are true not because they happened, but because they touch something inside of us; they give us a glimpse of a bigger world than the one in which we may find ourselves at our worst moments. They are examples of what we can be as our best selves.

And that’s important, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes in Essays on Ethics: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible. “Storytelling is the great vehicle of moral education,” says the rabbi. “It was the Torah’s insight that a people who told their children the story of freedom and its responsibilities would stay free for as long as humankind lives and breathes and hopes.”

May each of us merit to tell, and live, that story.

  • email
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Tumblr
  • PDF

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Tales

Not Like It Used To Was

Mom in the drug store Called out to her son: “Brooklyn!” Am I getting old?

Read more »

Prosatio Silban and the Starving Survivor

A BUOPOTH IS A STRANGE beast: some say it is half-composed of men’s dreams, others prefer not to speculate. But of the little that...

Read more »

Prosatio Silban and the Visitor From The Sands

PROSATIO SILBAN WAS NOT KNOWN for nothing as “The Cook For Any Price.” He had long ago foresworn the Sacreanthood and serving people’s souls...

Read more »

The Poet

HE COULDN’T TELL WHETHER HE loved beauty or women more until the day he called his mom and said “Guess what? I’m marrying a...

Read more »

Storyteller’s Knot

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF any story is the point at which it’s attached to the reader.

Read more »

Reader Picks


June 2018
« Oct    


Wine Country Weather

Click for Forecast

Ritual Hat Pass

G'bless'ye, sir or madam.

You Can't Stop The Signal:
Celebrating the remaining days:hours:etc until Apophis II. Live it up, Earthlings.

Favicon Plugin created by Jake Ruston's Wordpress Plugins - Powered by Briefcases and r4 ds card.