February 3, 2023

There is an oft-repeated parable of a young child in the midst of trying to save beached starfish by throwing them back into the ocean, being confronted by an adult who questions their ability to make a difference. While the child throws one starfish at a time, thousands of additional starfish remain on miles of additional beachfront. No matter the rendition of this story, the final line is always the same, the child picks up another starfish, throws it into the ocean, and tells the adult they made a difference to “that one.”

Sometimes we face a challenge so great that its totality is simply overwhelming. How can we make a difference as one drop in an endless ocean? However, like the idiom “little strokes fell great oaks,” we know that the persistence of even the smallest acts have the strength to create great change.

Along these lines, there is an interesting redundancy in this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach. Exodus 15:1 reads, while the Israelites continue their journey on the other side of the Reed Sea (now that the Egyptians have all been defeated), they spring into spontaneous celebration and sing to Gd “for Gd triumphed gloriously” (Hebrew: כי גאה גאה).

Our great sage Rashi elaborates on this redundancy and explains the repetition as a sign that no matter how much we may praise Gd there will always remain more to be praised. The Ramban reenforces Rashi’s explanation and calls it an ultimate “expression of exaltation and supreme power.”

Now, like the adult in the starfish story, we could simply resign ourselves not to bother helping even one starfish because there will always be more that we can do, or we can emulate the child as well as the euphoric Israelites and say one small act is better than nothing.

Having been an educator around children for most of my life, I am confident that our youth’s idealism and sometimes simplification of life has something to teach us older cynics and skeptics. This weekend let’s create some meaningful and genuine impact in [at least] one person’s life. Yes, there may be an entire society out there to change, but as Gd “triumphed gloriously,” may we also do so with one outstretched hand, one embracing hug, or one unexpected hello.

In addition, maybe you’re looking to engage in song this weekend? In honor of this special Shabbat Shira (“Shabbat of Song”), Temple Beth El invites you to join their congregation with visiting musician Rabbi Josh Warshawsky. To find out more, go to the Temple Beth El Calendar. Because we are…



Shabbat Shalom,