We are on our Long March to Freedom, we have left Egypt, we are no longer slaves being held against our will. This is the story we are enjoined to celebrate through song this week of ‘Shabbat Shira’, and Beshalach. Will we have the capacity to ‘sing the Lord’s song in a strange Land…’, where we still await the freedom of our hostages?
Curiously we are offered a respite, a Shabbat experience that preempts the Fourth of the Ten Commandments we receive next week in the portion of Yitro. It appears with no back story, its purpose appears unrelated to what will become the two foundational stories on which the Shabbat rests, pun intentional! The story of creation and yes the Exodus from Egypt. The Shabbat we are invited to this week, requires us to bring no food, just good company! We miraculously and instructionally receive all the food, the Manna required on Friday morning, evoked by the two challot we place on our Shabbat table. The chain of events is prompted by the distressing complaining that seems to become a pattern for a people that is now able to. Not enough food, or water. The response becomes both nutritional and educational. We are asked to put our faith in God, who will supply us with sufficient food not for one but two days. Shabbat you do not need to glean, rather rest, 16:22,23
וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁ֗י לָֽקְט֥וּ לֶ֙חֶם֙ מִשְׁנֶ֔ה שְׁנֵ֥י הָעֹ֖מֶר לָאֶחָ֑ד וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ כָּל־נְשִׂיאֵ֣י הָֽעֵדָ֔ה וַיַּגִּ֖ידוּ לְמֹשֶֽׁה׃
On the sixth day they gathered double the amount of food, two omers for each; and when all the chieftains of the community came and told Moses,
The people appear to be confused by the buy one and get one free marketing and Moses supplies the exclamation which is rather enigmatic;
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם ה֚וּא אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה שַׁבָּת֧וֹן שַׁבַּת־קֹ֛דֶשׁ לַֽיהוָ֖ה מָחָ֑ר אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאפ֞וּ אֵפ֗וּ וְאֵ֤ת אֲשֶֽׁר־תְּבַשְּׁלוּ֙ בַּשֵּׁ֔לוּ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־הָ֣עֹדֵ֔ף הַנִּ֧יחוּ לָכֶ֛ם לְמִשְׁמֶ֖רֶת עַד־הַבֹּֽקֶר׃
Moses explains, “This is what God meant: Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy sabbath of God. Bake what you would bake and boil what you would boil; and all that is left put aside to be kept until morning.”
When was this explanation given, and the actual expression is fascinating. We are more familiar with the phrase – שבת שבתון Shabbat Shabbaton, rather than ( שבתון שבת (קודש, Shabbaton Shabbat, This form is unique. The concept of a Shabbaton, a universal Sabbatical, as the context and raison d’etre is astonishing. A time to rest, to reflect, to leave one’s reality and be transformed into מעין עולם הבא, a taste or glimpse of what the world to come in this world could look like. It is a time to envision how we heal a fractured world through living in a utopian reality, where ALL regardless of status, merit rest, where all can enjoy freedom.
That is a gift worthy of singing for. We incorporate this foundational shabbat experience this shabbat Shira, a shabbat of singing every week through zemirot, shabbat songs. May we have the audacity to sing with more gusto this week. Embrace it as a tenacious belief that we can and must improve our reality, becoming partners in the ongoing creation of our world.