Shabbat Yitro

Candles 4.54pm
Havdalah 5.50pm

The chapters we read this week include the Ten Commandments, the basic principles of Jewish life. But there is another important theme that runs through these chapters, that of family. First of all Jethro, the father- in-law of Moses came to visit Moses and brought his wife and sons with. Moses the leader, isolated and under constant pressure, needed to have his family around him for emotional support. Of course he had his brother and sister there, but the special bond of immediate family, wife and children, primary and irreplaceable. Moses was so concerned about his wife and children that even though when he set out from Midian he took them with, when he met Aaron he realized how difficult the conditions were there and sent them back to Midian for their own safety.

And then of course in the Ten Commandments, the law to respect and honor ones parents is so important, it is included in the first five, those laws that relate to God rather than to other human beings. From all this we learn how important family is for ones protection as one grows up. One needs to recognize that debt and try to repay it. But most important are the moral lessons of Torah because they help as we go on to build our own lives and create families of our own. In the end the most important task in our lives is to live the good and a spiritual life. So the text starts with family but goes on to assert the importance of a set of values and good behavior, because in the end each one of has to stand on his or her own two feet and accept responsibility for ones actions.

Put it in your diaries-->We will read the Megilla and have a party at 7:00 pm, Saturday night, February 23rd.



Shabbat BeShalach

Candles 4:45pm
Havdalah 5:41pm

The Children of Israel come out of Egypt. It is like a rebirth. But almost immediately they are faced with one crisis after another. The Egyptian army pursues them. There is no water, no food. They complain against Moses, Aharon and God. The Amalekites attack them. Yet they come through all these difficulties. There is one word that is repeated at each of these stages, the word NISa. It means a test, in the way that Avraham was ‘tested’ when he was asked to kill his own son. The same letters in Hebrew that mean ‘Test,’ NUN SAMECH, also stand for NES, a miracle, something amazing.

We are tested from the moment we are born. Things do not always go the way we want or expect them to. But this is part of life, the process that either makes s or breaks us. It is not a matter of whether God tests us but that life itself tests us. If all we do is complain about it the problems we face, we will never overcome difficulties and progress. But if we do, then we are stronger for having survived the tests. So it was with Avraham, so it was with the Children of Israel and so it is today with us whether in Israel or the diaspora. But we come through. We are survivors.

We are constantly tested. That is the miracle of life, that we are challenged. And each time we survive it is a small miracle. Life is made up of lots of little miracles if we can only recognize them. When we are in pain we only see the dark side. But when we survive through to the other side, then we see light, whether it is physical or spiritual light. And that is worth singing about!

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Shabbat Bo

Candles Friday 4:37pm
Havdalah 5:33pm

Our sincerest condolences to Morad Ghadamian
on the loss of his mother Jahan Bat Bibijan A”H

The long saga of plagues finally comes to an end and Pharaoh literally drives the Children of Israel out of Egypt. What was the point of the plagues and why didn’t God simply start with the last one and avoid the whole charade?

Pharaoh was convinced his society, its values and religion was the most advanced and technically superior to any other in his day. Moses had to find a way both of changing his mind and persuading the Children of Israel that they themselves had a religion that could offer them something Egypt could not. It is not very different to those nowadays who think that modern society because it is technically advanced no longer needs religion.

The plagues all show the limits of the physical world and the shortcomings of Pharaoh’s magicians and priests. The water supply is affected. Lice and boils attack the people the way viruses do nowadays. The produce of the earth and its livestock are destroyed. The winds bring locusts, the skies hail and the atmosphere brings pollution and death. The wise Egyptian ‘scientists’ are shown to be ineffectual and their gods powerless. It’s a classic case of undermining and showing the limitations of everything the Egyptians relied upon.

And so it is today. All the false gods of wealth, fame, security and stability have been undermined. Politicians are incapable of acting together. Scientists cannot not help our souls or fill the spiritual vacuum.

God, religion does not replace all these of course but it does point out their limitations of the physical world. To feel genuinely at peace and happy we need the spiritual as well. But we are set in our ways. We think we are right and we have no need for another way of looking at things. And that’s why too often, only tragedy or disaster get us to rethink and change direction.


Shabbat Shemot

Mevarchin Rosh Chodesh Shevat next Shabbat
Candles 4:22 pm. Havdalah 5:18pm

Exodus starts with slavery and then leads into freedom. Like many themes in the Torah we moderns might think them dated. There is no slavery nowadays. But that’s not true. Still, today real old fashioned slavery continues in parts of Africa, the Arab World and the East. So we who are really free, have much to be grateful for.

The Torah repeats “Remember that you were Slaves in the Land of Egypt” so that we should be sensitive to oppression and forced servitude. Nowadays one can expand this to include the way one treats ones family members and employees. Refusing to deal with issues, failing to communicate, bullying, they are all symptoms of oppression and the victim feels trapped, enslaved metaphorically.

And there’s another kind of slavery; being enslaved to fashion, money, peer group pressure even unquestioned opinions and ideas. The most common form of slavery nowadays is being a slave to society. It is not an exaggeration to say that people are enslaved to their phones and cannot survive without then even one day a week! I have seen people lose their businesses and families simply because they would not or could not change their way of looking at things. Sometimes people are trapped, enslaved in a situation where they feel and are made to feel worthless. So when we read about freedom from slavery let us not only think of Hebrew slaves then. Many of us are still enslaved today.

Next Shabbat I will be in Jerusalem. Looking forward to seeing you when I return.
My weekly blog is at www.jeremyrosen.blogspot.com.