Shabbat Message: Move From Prayer to Action

February 6, 2020
By Beth Mordecai
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Shabbat Message: Move From Prayer to Action

The Torah was written with an economy of language, meaning a minimum of words. Every black letter carefully written on the white parchment holds within it immense meaning and potential. The Rabbis often look for interpretations and explanations to better understand the text.

Often the Torah switches from one narrative to another and back again. Between 400-1200 CE, the Rabbis compiled various narratives that come to explain or give more detail about a part of the Torah know as Midrashim.

Exodus 14:5-22 states, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground…”

Then Moses held out his arm over the sea, and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, and the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

One Midrash comes from the collection interpreting the text from the book of Exodus called, Exodus Rabbah 21:8. This Midrash fills in a conversation between Moses and God.

R. Eliezer said: God said to Moses: “There is a time to pray briefly and a time to pray at length. My children are in distress (standing at the Red Sea as the Egyptian army approaches), …and you stand here adding prayer onto prayer!

‘Speak to the children of Israel that they move forward.’

Let their feet step forward from the dry land to the sea, and you will see miracles that I will perform for them.

In this Midrash, Rabbi Eliezer is explaining a conversation between Moses and God just before God splits the sea. Moses is speaking to God and praying while the Egyptian army is fast approaching. God chastises Moses for his inaction and his lengthy prayer. God tells Moses that his prayer is too lengthy, and he is praying instead of helping his people.

Often in our lives, we do not have the power to change a situation, so we pray to God to change it for us or to give us courage and strength. Other times people may pray at great length as a substitute for action.

God is telling Moses and all the future generations that we must pray to God and move from prayer to action.

This week, I ask God’s blessing that we can open our hearts to have the courage and strength to work to bring ourselves and others from slavery to freedom.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Metz


Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat