Re'ei: Crossing The River
“In the “Judgment” of the Book of Changes, whenever one encounters dangerous circumstances the advice is always: “Cross the river.” One can see from this that the real purpose of boats is to deliver people from danger rather than to provide comfort.” Pleasure Boat Studio by Ou-yang Hsiu (1007 – 1072)
We seem to take Hsiu’s advice quite seriously. We refer to our first patriarch, Abraham as “Ivri” – what Hsiu would call a river crosser. In fact, many people referred to us as Ivrim for a long time.
But we do not cross the river to avoid dangerous circumstances. We actually cross towards them: “For you are crossing the Jordan to come and possess the Land that God, your Lord, gives you.” We are certainly river crossers, not to avoid, but to confront.
Our definition of Ivri is not “from the other side” but one who can bridge both sides of the river. Our challenge is to stand on both sides of the river – to bridge the spiritual and physical worlds.
We also differ from Hsiu’s definition of a boat’s purpose: “This world is like the shore and the World to Come like the sea.” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:36) The Midrash compares the World to Come as a journey on the sea. There will be no dangers to escape. The journey will be filled with joy and comfort.
We are Ivrim – River Crossers and Bridges – in order to prepare for the ultimate journey on the sea of the Coming World. No wonder we live by Halacha – Instructions for Journeying!
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