Beshalach and Bobby McGee

“Together, Today, with a Desert to Roam”

A Lyrical Commentary on Parashat Beshalach,
to the tune of “Me and Bobby McGee” —
with apologies and thanks to authors Fred Foster and Kris Kristoferson,
and to Janis Joplin on whose rendition this is based.
(c) V. Spatz, 2003.

[composed for the occasion of a Fabrangen bat mitzvah]

Busted flat in Rephidim [1]
Grumbling once again
Feeling near as faded as the sand
Finally made some water flow down from Mount Horeb [2]
Hoping that will lead you back to Me

Told Moses how to get safe drinks out of that bitter Marah water [3]
I was raining quail then sending manna too [4]
cloud by day and fire by night
we made an impressive sight
Marching and learning the Sabbath rules [5]

From that first stop in ha-Hiroth [6]
to the splitting of the Sea [7]
I tried to share the secrets of My soul
Through all the plagues in Egypt, through everything we’ve done
Making Myself known was the only goal

One day, then, near the Elim springs, I almost slipped away [8]
you were dreaming of flesh pots and yearning for home
But we can’t trade our tomorrows for any yesterday
together today with a desert to roam

[YAH’s chorus:]
Freedom’s just another word for being bamidbar but midbar, midbar [9] , People, yields the Law
Feeling good will be enough
in the world to come
Feeling good is not enough right now
not enough right now for My People and Me

la da da da da da, My People & Me

Hey, I call ’em “goy kadosh” [10]
Call ’em my “am” [11]
Call ’em “goy kadosh
Do the best I can–C’mon…
My People, My People & Me
la da da da da da, My People and Me [12]

[People’s chorus:]
Freedom’s just another word for being bamidbar
but bamidbar is a scary place to be
Feeling good, it’s true, we want;
why must we sing the blues
but feeling good is not enough for You
not enough for Torah, for us, or You

la da da for Torah, for us, and You

Hey, call out eloheinu, [13]
call out Shaddai, [14]
Call out eloheinu,
we really try — C’mon…
Your Torah, Your Torah & You
la da da da da da, Torah and You

Notes:

[1] Exodus 17:1. “Busted flat”: the people have been taken out of slavery in Egpyt, witnessed miracles performed for them, but have complained non-stop for the entire portion of Beshallach, Exodus 13:17 – 17:16:
· “There weren’t enough graves in Egypt?” (Exod 14:11);
· the water is bitter (Exod 15:23)
· we’d rather have died at the fleshpots of Egypt (Exod 16:3);
· “Give us water to drink!” (Exod 17:2)
They also defied the rules about gathering manna (Exod 16:20 and 16:27) and “quarreled with Moses.” (Exod 17:2). Finally, perhaps because, as some commentators suggest, they have been so contentious, “Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.” (Exod 17:8). — Clearly, God has cause to sing the blues!

[2] Exodus 17:6. A midrash says God wanted the people to seek the source of the water, Sinai.

[3] Exodus 15:23-26
[4] Exodus, chapter 16
[5] Exodus 16:21-30
[6] Exodus 14:2
[7] Exodus 14:15-31
[8] Exodus 15:27

[9] Bamidbar means “in the desert” and is the name of the fourth book of the Bible

[10] goy kadosh: “holy nation” (cf 19:6)

[11] am means “people” (Cf. Exodus 17:3 — “But the people [am] thirsted for water.”

[12] YAH (which is pronounced, is the first half of God’s 4-letter name, unpronounced name, YHVH). YAH and the people each have their own chorus, as their experiences bamidbar are different but related. I envision YAH and the people singing at the same time, so to fulfill Exodus 6:7 — “And I will take you to be My people [am], and I will be your God [elohim].”

[13] eloheinu — “our God” — cf. ” none like our God,” Exod 8:6

[14] Shaddai — or El Shaddai, a name of God related to hills and breasts (and so to nurturing, etc.) is used often in Genesis, e.g., Gen 35:11, but not in the Book of Exodus, where God gives Moses “the name” (YHVH, the four-letter unpronounced name of God) at the burning bush, Exod 3:13-15.

(c) V. Spatz, 2003. Not to be reprinted, reposted, reproduced or utilized in any form without express permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations for reviews.

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