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Drash on B’shalach 2024

Rabbi Dean Shapiro

Beth Shalom

The Israelites, recently released from captivity, pour out of Egypt.  Pharaoh chases after, desperate to capture them. The Torah describes his determination this way:  “YHVH strengthened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 14:8).

That’s how it feels when we’re determined or stubborn:  hardened, tightened, rigid.  Fight or flight kicks in.  We feel powerful, equipped for the moment and whatever it may bring.  Our hands make fists, our jaws lock, and our field of vision narrows.

This approach isn’t successful for Pharaoh (“God locked the wheels of their chariots so that they moved forward with difficulty” [14:25]), and it’s rarely successful for us.  When we harden, we fail to see possibilities and opportunities.  We overlook allies.  We make poor decisions.

Instead, take a lesson from the ocean.  It is always changing, always rolling.  Waves pass through it and it bends around any corner.  An ocean is fluid enough to divide, even though that’s contrary to its own nature.  When confronted, water relaxes its grip and gets out of the way.

When a situation gets intense, try to be conscious and move yourself in the opposite direction: relax your grip, close your eyes, breath in and out.   Acknowledge your feelings in that moment.  Release the requirement that your solution is the only one.  Shift yourself from being an obstacle to moving with the flow.

Who knows?  Something miraculous might just happen.

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