Torah for the Birds

Shabbat B’Shallach is also known as Shabbat Shira – the Shabbat of Song. After crossing over the Sea of Reeds, escaping from the narrow confines of Mitzrayim, Egypt, the Israelites break out in a song, and sing words that speak of themselves in the past, present and future – just as we heard when Moses asked God, God’s Name: I Was, I Am and I Will Be. Just as we live with our past within us in every present moment, we too are always in a state of becoming.

The Israelites sing, “God is become my Saviour.” The Sefat Emet, the Gerer Rebbe, teaches that as God saved our ancestors in this crossing over, so God saves each one of us when we know our freedom, when we know we are one with God’s Oneness in this world, in this time. B’shallach and particularly this Shir, this song, reminds us every day to “Wake up” to our freedom.

We have another reminder – the birds who sing to us. B’shallach is a reminder to us to listen and appreciate the birds around us. There is a tradition to leave seeds for birds to eat on this Shabbat. Birds are not (usually) confined –they soar around us; they sing in winged freedom. As we approach Tu B’Shvat this Wednesday and Thursday, where we acknowledge the New Year of the Trees, B’Shallach reminds us that trees and birds and freedom and us – we are One.