Questioning faith in the parsha
The song at the sea
There are several things that trouble me in the account of the journeying out of Egypt.
The Rabbis tell us that God stopped His angels from rejoicing when the Egyptians were engulfed by the sea. And, similarly, during the seder, when we recite the plagues, we spill one drop of wine to mark each of them, as though to remind ourselves that our glasses cannot be full when others suffer.
So why didn’t God also stop the freed Hebrews from rejoicing? Why were they allowed to sing the praises of a warrior God who had deliberately destroyed their former oppressors? This is the God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart so as to have a reason to deploy signs and wonders and who then led the Egyptians to their deaths for the sake of His own glory in the eyes of Israel.
Is it because of the implicit message that without God the Jewish people will never be able to vanquish their enemies who would relentlessly attack them down through the ages, and who are epitomized by Amalek? Why indeed does Israel seem doomed to have a foe? Why has Amalek in one guise or another continued to pursue the Jewish people throughout time? Is that the price of having been chosen? Chosen by a warrior God?
Chaim Potok, in the extract we read, speaks of journeying as an eternal atonement. We are all journeying, always on the way, never to arrive.
And what if the journeying were an atonement for the flaws in our own being, which are the flaws in the being of that God? For the warrior God, the God of the Covenant, seems to be a different God from the God who silences the jubilant angels – the God whose place is not this world, who cannot even be reached, and who yet is the light by which we may see, as we go on journeying.