Between Us: Let’s talk about life-changing experiences

Between Us

This week’s parasha is Beshallah, the fourth portion in the Book of Exodus. After leaving Egypt and escaping toward the Sea of Reeds, Moses gets his first glimpse of the challenges of leading the Israelites to freedom: “As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moses, “What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt… it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

Such questions! Such gratitude! Moses is instructed by God to hold his rod over the sea to split it, and you know the rest of the story. But this is only the first in a series of challenges by the recently-freed slaves to both Moses’ and God’s ability to keep them safe. Even the miracle of the crossing of the Sea doesn’t transform the Israelites into believers.

We have all heard stories of “life-changing experiences,” and some of us may have even had one. This week’s parasha, however, teaches that faith comes not from without, but from within. The miracles of the plagues and the parting of the sea do not transform the Israelites. That comes over time, and even then, is not a straight line progression. Rather, it is the strong leadership of Moses that helps guide the people of Israel from skeptics to believers.

Leadership matters, for today and for tomorrow. That is why Federation created The Tomorrow Fellowship. With generous funding from the Bennett Family Foundation and under the chairmanship of Rabbi Greg Harris, The Tomorrow Fellowship has become a coveted professional development opportunity for a select group of mid-to-upper level professionals working within Jewish agencies, organizations and synagogues. Two classes have already graduated and, beginning later this month, Cohort III will participate in a series of classes, workshops and meetings led by field experts to enhance critical professional skills. As leaders in their organizations and in our community, this diverse group of professional colleagues will help guide our community to a bright and welcoming future. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating this latest cohort of Tomorrow Fellows as they embark on this important work.