B’Shallakh and Singing: Sometimes a Little Luck Helps
As a sports fan I am somewhat of an anomaly. Since childhood I have been devoted to the Yankees, but never with disdain for the Boston Red Sox; a Yankee mortal enemy. I cannot however make the same claim about another Boston success story: The New England Patriots. Begrudgingly, I salute them for winning another Super Bowl; they are an exceptional team. Yet, in my expert opinion, they won with considerable assist from the defeated Atlanta Falcons.
Before the New Englanders among us rush to castigate me, I admit that it took a uniquely talented team to overcome a 21-3 deficit. Nevertheless, without several unfortunate (some would say ‘dumb’) decisions by the Falcons, New England would not have enjoyed another victory parade. Occasionally, celebration requires a little bit of luck and good fortune.
Shifting themes from football to freedom; in the Torah portion of B’Shallakh we celebrate the Israelite liberation from Egyptian slavery. As our ancient counterparts sing the Shira-the euphoric song marking the Exodus-we appreciate their gratitude for the God who helped them conquer Pharaoh. Aside from God however (permit me a heresy), the Israelites would not have succeeded without some unfortunate (and dumb) decisions by Pharaoh and his nation. Pharaoh’s ego led to crippling plagues and to the eventual demise of his army. By complying with Pharaoh, the Egyptians not only empowered him to pursue a destructive course, but served as willing accomplices. On a visceral level (here, I mean on a non-theological level), had Egypt honored the policies of Joseph’s Pharaoh, the Israelites would probably have continued to live comfortably in Egypt. In other words, despite the remarkable resoluteness of Israel in enduring many years of slavery, the Egyptians deserve a major assist in creating the environment which led to their self-destruction and to the Exodus.
When singing the initial Shira therefore, hopefully the Israelites sang with a touch of humility. Yes, they could celebrate their God and they could be self-congratulatory for outsmarting their taskmasters. However, they needed to sing without notions of invincibility, as they enjoyed a little luck along the way. Such a reality would hopefully always keep them humble and grounded.
After five Super Bowl victories one could forgive the Patriots for notions of invincibility. In our victory over the Egyptians and in subsequent victories over formidible enemies; we Jews need to be a little more circumspect.