In Hebrew, the Israelites are referred to as Ivrim, עברים - meaning, those who have crossed over. While it often refers specifically to having crossed the Jordan River, I like to imagine that it connotes more existentially an orientation to life. We are a people who traverse and transgress, who wander and wade into the water. We are "trans" people so to speak. We are crosser-overs. And there is perhaps no greater crossing in mythic tradition, than the crossing of the Red Sea. The sea whose waters are likened to a birth canal. In this way, Passover celebrates the birth of our collective identity as people who crossed over and came through, who sang our way to freedom.
And yet, the Rabbis refer to this biblical scene as קריעת ים סוף Kriat Yam Suf - Crossing of the Red Sea. In Hebrew, this is the same word, Kriah, קריע, that we use to describe the rending of a garment after the death of a loved one. We are torn, we are broken hearted, we are split open.
Why this word, why here?
It is my experience that there is no crossing, no transformative experience that does not involve great loss. All crossings are not only a birthing process, also a grieving process. It is our letting go that makes space for new growth. It is our persistent faith in what's possible that motivates us to face our grief.
On seder nights I encouraged us to recline, to lean back. And now, as we prepare to enter Shabbat and complete this crossing, I want to encourage us to lean in and let go. To trust that if we are brave enough to step in, the waters will in fact part and we will find ourselves on dry ground. To have the courage, as the poet Marge Piercy writes, "to let go of everything but freedom." Every fear, every worry, every grudge, every doubt. Everything but freedom.
Moadim L'Simcha - Wishing you all a joyful Shabbat!
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.