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April 13, 1990 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TORAH PORTION

I

For Judaism To Survive
It Must Be Practiced

RABBI MORTON YOLKUT

Special to The Jewish News

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RA/t4BIRD,

n the seventh day of
Passover, according to
tradition, our ances-
tors stood at the shores of the
Red Sea and witnessed the
final destruction of their long-
time tormentors. This
miraculous victory came just
when the people thought all
was lost and it was, indeed,
the final confirmation of
God's promised redemption.
At this juncture the Ibrah
tells us: "And Israel saw the
great work that God did
against the Egyptians, and
they feared God; and they
believed in God and in his ser-
vant Moses." (Exodus 14:31)
As they witnessed the great
work of the Almighty and His
miracles, the Israelites burst
forth into a beautiful song of
thanksgiving. That song —
the Shira was incorporated
later into our daily liturgy
and has since become our
quintessential prayer of
thanksgiving.
It has always seemed
strange that the Exodus itself
was passed by in silence.
There is no mention of any
songs of thanksgiving in the
Torah nor any special praises
to God at that time. Only
later at the Red Sea did the
Israelites offer a song of
thanksgiving. Why did they
wait until then? Why is there
no song of rejoicing a week
earlier at the Exodus itself?
The answer turns to the
role of the Israelites at each
of these respective events.
When the Hebrews witnessed
the miracles of the Exodus,
the 10 plagues and their
dramatic consequences, they
were simply passive spec-
tators. God did the
miraculous acts and they
merely observed from the
sidelines. They were liberated
but were not involved in their
liberation.
Later, however, at the Red
Sea, a serious effort was re-
quired on their part. Accor-
ding to the sages, the waters
divided only after the
Israelites braved the waves
plunging into the water until
it reached their nostrils. Here,
they were more than spec-
tators; they were participants.
They were involved in shap-
ing their redemption and
forging their destiny.
This was true belief. "And
they believed in God and in
his servant Moses." True faith

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Morton Yolkut is rabbi of
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implies commitment and in-
volvement. To believe is to do
something about that belief.
Now we can understand why
their song was delayed and
recited only later at the Red
Sea. For that song was an ex-
pression of their devotion and
total commitment to the vi-
sion they had been privileged
to behold.
Judaism, unlike many of
the other world religions, is
not a religion that em-
phasizes dogma, doctrines
and beliefs. We are not a peo-
ple rooted in abstract prin-
ciples or philosophical
speculations. As Jews we are
not expected simply to learn
by rote a catechism or a series
of facts. Rather, the obligation

Chol HaMoed
Passover

of the Jew is to experience, to
live and to participate in the
drama of significant moments
and hallowed events. Ours is
an action-oriented religion. It
is experiential.
On Passover we are not
merely required to discuss the
Exodus, but also to taste the
bitterness of slavery, to eat
the bread of affliction and to
drink the wine of redemption.
On Sukkot we dwell in flim-
sy booths to feel the cold
winds of exile. We are not a
religion of abstraction but of
reality, of life itself. Judaism
is a religion of experience and
it functions meaningfully
when lived and experienced.
If Judaism is to survive and
prosper in this generation, we
must be prepared to move for-
ward like our ancestors and to
practice, not just talk, about
Judaism. Let us learn from
this remarkable episode at
the Red Sea. Let us not be
content with merely saying
smugly that we believe in
Judaism, and then doing
nothing about it. Belief im-
plies commitment and par-
ticipation. Nothing less will
do! Let us practice what we
preach and live what we pro-
fess. 0

SYNAGOGUES

fr"

Torah Study
Ends Cycle

The seven and one-half year
cycle of Daf Yomi, study of the
daily folio of the Talmud,
comes to an end this month.
The event will be celebrated
by the Detroit Jewish com-
munity at 6:30 p.m. April 29

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