Last week in the Torah we witnessed our ancestors escaping Egyptian slavery. We “stood” with them on the shores of the Red Sea as, despite their fears, they stepped in and crossed, and arrived safely at the other side. We sang and celebrated with them as they made this important step towards freedom. It was momentous and rewarding for all who were there, and yet it was only the first steps towards freedom. The journey had just began.… Read More »
This Shabbat is known as “Shabbat Shirah”, the Sabbath of Song. We chant a special melody to the song the Israelites sing when they miraculously cross the sea to safety as they flee from the Egyptians. You may know that our prayer Mi Chamocha comes from this Torah passage.
What the beautiful melody belies, however, is the triumphant and adversarial imagery found elsewhere throughout the poem. A lengthy section describes the demise of… Read More »
Born in 1888, my maternal grandmother grew up in Warsaw, Poland and immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century along with tens of thousands of Eastern European Jews looking for a better life. Her stern admonition to her young granddaughters—spoken in her heavily-accented English—: “Never go back to the ‘old country.’ For Jews it was never our home. America – this is our home.”
My grandmother felt embraced by… Read More »
“When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go…”
This week’s portion, Va-eira, explains how God, with the help of Moses and his brother Aaron, attempts to persuade Pharoah to release the Israelite slaves. As we see so often in the Jewish narrative, this is the beginning of the story of a reluctant underdog triumphing over a headstrong oppressor. (See David & Goliath, book of Esther, story of Chanukah, etc.)
The portion… Read More »
The story of Exodus is in so many ways the story of Moses, his relationship with God, and their joint efforts to save a nascent Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt. From this perspective, the first chapter of the book of Exodus merely serves to set the scene. Hastily, the pieces are placed. The children of Jacob grow in population and prosperity until they contain the potential for becoming a nation. A new king arises in Egypt who fears… Read More »
Two weeks ago a large group of our TI college students joined us at services – prompting me to remember them as Gan Ilan tots, B’nai Mitzvah students and Confirmands. It was such a kick to see them back at our Temple, full of amazing stories about their new, independent lives away from home.
Those college kids came to my mind when studying this week the last chapters of Genesis, wrapping up the lives of Jacob and Joseph, the last… Read More »