One of my favorite pieces of art, which hangs in my office, is a water color parody of Moses parting the Red Sea. It depicts a swim meet with Moses standing on the diving block at the starting end of the pool. Down each lane, swimmers race towards the other end of the pool. But in the lane where Moses stands, there is no water - only a man dressed in traditional Jewish garb, running down the dry lane of the pool.
When young people come into my office, they often "get-it" after a minute or two and exclaim, "Oh, I get it!" Some quiet chuckling ensues.
The story of the parting of the sea tells the tale of a miraculous escape by the Israelites from the pursuing Egyptian Army. t is a story about the power of the "underdog," slaves rising up to achieve freedom.
As the story in the book of Exodus goes, the Israelites reach the other side and join in song. This account is one of the first scenes in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, when the entire community of Israel celebrates and rejoices together in a Passover Seder (meal with special ceremony). Their medium for praise of their God and jubilation is song.
The Hebrew word "Seder" is often associated with the ritual Passover meal, called a Seder. The word itself means: "order," and the Passover meal takes this name, because it is full of traditions and customs that create an ordered meal to tell the story.
Yet, in the Jewish tradition, we use this concept of Seder - order - for many things. The schedule of scriptural Torah readings is just one among many.
Each week, we read a specific and different section of the Torah. The week ending with the Jewish Sabbath on Friday, Feb. 3, we read the story of the miracle - The Parting of the Red Sea. It is a time when Jewish communities around the world introduce new music, celebrate with an extra measure of rejoicing and bring great melody to our worship. It is called "Shabbat Shira - The Sabbath of Song."
Just a few days following this celebration, another Seder comes our way. The Jewish celebration of TuB'Shevat (meaning: the 15th of the Hebrew Month of Shevat) will be marked. This is often called the "new year for the trees." While it is hardly the planting season in our neck of the woods, in Israel, it is quite different. We observe this time of year with another Seder, another ordered meal. This time, rather than recounting the escape from Egyptian bondage, we draw connections to nature and ecology. It is time to recognize the bounty that comes from trees. TuB'Shevat is the holiday that helps us recognize the change of seasons and consider how we inherited a world with fruit trees and a whole array of plants. Now, it is our turn to ensure there will be even more for generations to come.
On Feb. 3, Temple Bat Yam will celebrate Shabbat Shira - The Sabbath of Song, with a music-filled service. Members of our community will share their music with harp, clarinet, guitar, piano and voice to recall the experience of our ancestors, after crossing the parted sea. It is a time to share our music and rejoice together. The Shabbat celebration will continue - on snow, A short morning Shabbat service will follow at Heavenly mountain on Saturday. Our Shabbat (Sabbath) will draw to a close with the traditional Havdalah -separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week - at Temple Bat Yam. The Havdalah will be followed by a Tu B'Shevat Seder - a meal that celebrates different kinds of fruit, the seasons and our commitment to the environment.
Everyone is invited.
For more information, call Temple Bat Yam at 530-542-1211; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go towww.tbytahoe.org/.