Looking for some new thoughts on this week’s Torah reading? In this series, Daniel unpacks some of the questions that we can ask about the stories in the Torah. Below are some reflections on Parshat Beshalach:
Usually, before I write these weekly posts, I read through the upcoming parsha
to get some inspiration. Normally, I am left with a number of questions and have many ideas of what I could talk about. After reading through Parshat Beshalach
, however, I'm left only with one big question: What happened to all the miracles?
In this week's parsha
, God makes a number of miraculous things happen. Moses raises his staff over the Red Sea and it splits in half, God sweetens the Israelites' water in the desert, God makes water flow from a rock, and God brings down manna (food) and quail for the Israelites to eat every day.
All of this is quite impressive when you think about it, but what happened to the God who makes these miracles happen? Where is he today? Why doesn't God bring down manna and quail now to solve world hunger? Why hasn't God ended climate change and solved all of the issues of hate in our world?
Over the last few weeks I've written a lot about God as a complex character in the bible. When I read through these stories each week, I see a changing, growing God
who develops gradually over time. In the early stories of the bible, God intervenes a great deal. God plays a major role in what happens to our ancestors and the "heroes" of the bible. But when I look at the story as a whole, I begin to see the nuances of how God interacts with the world and the changes in his behavior over time.
In the beginning, God creates the world and everything in it. God is extremely active and participatory in everything that happens on earth up until the story of Noah and the flood. At this point, God takes a step back and lets the story play out without as much intervention. God speaks with some, but not all, of our characters. Instead of making significant interjections, God pushes and nudges humanity in the right direction through different leaders. This limited guidance lasts until God gives the Israelites the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai. After this point, God takes another
step back, now existing as a guiding cloud for the people. Moses appoints judges and leaders to help guide the Israelites, and God leaves them mostly to themselves. Finally, once the people enter the land of Israel, the manna stops and God's physical manifestation on earth ends.
At this point, humanity is trusted to make its own decisions. When I think about the God that resolved all of our problems for us with miracles, I think about how little responsibility people demonstrated and how much we have learned over time. As a people, we have evolved alongside God. We are now deciding for ourselves where to go and what to do. With this independence comes the understanding that we have an obligation to address problems that arise but we also have the ability to solve them. God has done God's part in teaching us and helping us grow, and has passed on the responsibility of fixing problems to us. Now we have the opportunity to create the miracles that will address the issues in our world.