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Parshat Beshallach: Bringing About Our Redemption

     Covid-time related confusion took hold of me yesterday.       I posted my commentary on Parshat Bo, which I forgot to post last week, and did not post my commentary on this week's Torah portion. So here it is....a day late. Shabbat Shalom! ----------------------------------------------- This week's parashah is Beshallakh ( Exodus/Shemot 13:17-17:16 )  week's parashah is Beshalach. Pharaoh has not just allowed the Israelites to leave, but he almost forced them out of the land after the tenth plague, the death of the first born. Now they are standing on at the shore of the sea of Reeds waiting to see what comes next. Once again, Pharaoh has had a change of heart. Suddenly they see that him and all of Egypt's chariots bearing down upon them at the shore of the Sea of Reeds. The people are crying out to Moses in fear. His basic response is to tell them to watch as God performs a miracle for them. God then replies to Moses “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israel

Parshat Bo: Reconciliation, Repentance, and Redmption

This week parashah/portion is Bo (Exodus 10:1 - 13:16). In the beginning, God sends the eighth and ninth plagues, locusts and darkness, but Pharaoh still refuses to free the Israelite slaves. God then tells Moses that the 10th plague will be killing all the firstborn Egyptians. God commands each Israelite home to slaughter a lamb and spread the blood on their doorposts, in order to protect their firstborns. After the death of the firstborns, Pharaoh demands that the Israelites leave. Then God commands Moses “...have all the Hebrews ask the Egyptians for their objects of gold and silver. God disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people. Moreover, Moses himself was much esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people. (Exodus 11:2-11:3)” This last line implies that the Egyptian people willingly gave up their gold and silver when asked.  This passage has confused, interested and disturbed rabbis and scholars through the centuries. What is happening here

Parshat Shemot: From Pharaoh to President (a Response to this Past Week's Riots in Washington)

This week’s parashah is Shemot (Shemot/Exodus 1:1 - 6:1). Shemot means names and it begins with a list of the names of the Israelites who came to Egypt with Jacob after reuniting with his beloved son Joseph. The Israelites then multiply greatly in numbers until we are told that a new king/Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph. He was afraid that the Israelites were becoming too powerful and so he enslaved them. Not remembering that their ancestor Joseph was the one who saved Egypt from famine he had no problem exercising his royal prerogative to do this. Why did Pharaoh fear the Israelites so much that he enslaved them? Perhaps it was not that he didn’t remember Joseph, but that he chose to erase him from history. Perhaps he intentionally desired to forget the past. He wanted to be in complete control. He wanted to be the only person the people thought about. And knew that the Israelites, not only because of their numbers, but because the people remembered their ancestor Joseph, were a

Parshat Vayishlakh: Showing Mercy....if when we don't want to!

This week’s parashah /portion is Vayishlach (Bereshit/Genesis 32:4-36:43) . It contains within three important central events in the narrative of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Bereshit /Genesis. First, Jacob prepares to reunite with his brother Esau decades after he had stolen his blessing and his birthright. The night before the reunion Jacob wrestles with a man/angel. At sunrise, before, before leaving Jacob, he blesses him and gives him the name Israel, meaning one who has struggled with the divine. Not long after this we read the disturbing incident of the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. She is raped by Shechem, the regional prince,  who then asks to marry her, because he supposedly loves her.  Jacob and his sons agree to this on the condition that Shechem and all the men of his community agree to be circumcised. While they are recovering, her brothers Shimon and Levi lead an attack and slaughter Shechem and all the men of his community. They do so supposedly in defense of

Parshat Chayei Sarah: Receiving Our Mothers' Blessings

This week’s parashah /portion is Hayei Sarah , or the life of Sarah. It begins by telling the reader that Sarah dies at the age of 127. Abraham searches for a place to bury her and settles on the cave of Machpelah outside of Hebron. Isaac is in deep mourning for his mother, so Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac from among his kin. The servant meets Rebecca, Abraham’s niece, at a well, where she provides water for him and his camels. The servant tells Rebecca who he is and why is there. Sarah tells her father Bethuel and brother Laban that she is ready and willing to return to Abraham’s tent with the servant and to marry her cousin Isaac. Upon their return, Isaac and Rebecca meet. He then takes her to his mother’s tent, they marry, he loved her and found comfort with her after Sarah’s death. Sarah, after whom the parashah is named, and Rebecca oare really at the spiritual core of this story. This is true in spite of the fact that it is the men who

Parshat Vayera: Building a New World

  This week’s parashah /portion is Vayera ( Bereshit /Genesis 18:1-22:24) . It begins with the arrival of t hree divine messengers (or angels) at Abraham and Sarah’s tent. They inform Abraham that God will give the elderly Sarah a child. The prophecy comes true, and they name their son Isaac. God then informs Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed, though Abraham attempts to convince God otherwise. Abraham convinces God to spare the cities if there are at least 10 righteous people. Unfortunately, he could not. And so the three messengers went to Sodom and Gomorrah in order to save Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family, who lived there. As the messengers , Lot and his family flee the cities, Lot’s wife looks back, even though they were commanded not to. As a punishment she was turned to a pillar of salt. Later, God’s promise is fulfilled and Sarah becomes pregnant and bears a son, Isaac. Eventually, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham takes Isaac to Mt. Moriah and