(Quick Comment, Parashat Beshalach, Exodus 13:17 – 17:16)
In this week’s Torah portion, God splits the sea allowing the Israelites to pass through on dry ground, and then drowns the Egyptians who charge after them (Exodus 14:22-28).
This account of our deliverance is vital to our spiritual journey, but God freed us, the Torah insists, with the demand that we help liberate all who suffer political or economic oppression.
Today’s waters will not drown some while sparing others.
Long ago, a king imposed harsh taxes on his subjects.
When they complained, the King scorned them, saying, “That’s not my problem! That’s your problem.”
One day an old man approached the king.
“Please don’t complain about the taxes,” the ruler said. That’s not my problem! That’s your problem.”
“No, your highness,’ the man answered. “I came to invite you for a ride in my boat.”
Surprised, the king agreed.
After rowing out to the middle of the lake, the man began to chip a hole in the bottom of the boat.
“Stop” cried the King. “I’ll drown.”
“That’s not my problem,” the man answered. “That’s your problem. I am just making the hole under my own seat.”
“I understand now,” said the king.” I have learned my lesson. They rowed back to shore, and the king levied fairer taxes. (Adapted from Va-yikrah Rabbah 4:6)
This ancient Midrash reminds us that we are all passengers on this boat we call earth. There is no such thing as, “a hole only under my own seat.”
Today, the world has become very small. We will either find ways to live together in peace, to protect our precious environment, feed the hungry and provide warmth and shelter for all of God’s children, or the swirling maelstrom will engulf us all.