Friday, January 22, 2016

A white Shabbos, Blessings and our Obligation to Share - Parshot Vaera through Beshallach

I’m dreaming of a white Shabbos......

I have to admit, I love snowstorms and especially love blizzards – but only when everyone I know is safe and warm at home and the electricity doesn’t go out! It’s a time to catch up on some sleep, play board games with family, watch movies, and for me – continue in the ongoing process of organizing my house. Said project began at Sinai, the same time we received the Torah, so I figure it’s okay for it to be never ending:)

At January’s Shabbat services at the Olney Kehila I gave everyone there a charge, which was to read [skim] that week’s parsha Vaera (Exodus 6:2 – 9:35) and envision themselves as Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Israelites and even God, as Moses asked Pharaoh to let our people go.  How did each character feel during this challenging and frightening time.  I likened the time to Halloween – where children go around shouting  “Trick or Treat!” The children expect candy and  don't really have the intention to pull a trick on anyone – at least not these days. I see Moses going to Pharaoh and saying “Trick or Treat!” – the treat being the exodus, the trick being the 10 plagues. Huge consequences. How much did Moses even know of the plagues were coming and the extent of the devastation?

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshallach (Exodus 13:17-17:16) we read the conclusion to the Trick or Treat tale started in Vaera. Pharaoh has finally had enough and the Israelites leave Egypt. Almost immediately, Pharaoh changes his mind and the Israelites find themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Sea of Reeds. We know how it ends – the sea splits, the Israelites get through safely, and the Egyptians are vanquished as the sea closes in on them.  How did each of the characters feel at this moment – Moses as a new leader wondering how to save his people (before the sea opens), the Israelites feeling like they went from the frying pan into the fire, the sea anticipating God’s miracle, Pharaoh’s soldiers flying toward them on their horses,  Pharaoh himself in a rage after having lost his son in the 10th plague and now his slaves.... So much going on.

When the Israelites get to the other side of the Sea of Reeds they sing and rejoice in their safety and freedom.  They sang words familiar to us today – the prayer Mi Chamocha:

Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, powerful in the holy place? Too awesome for praises, performing wonders!”

Outside our windows we see the snow coming down, quite steadily, eventually it will come down relentlessly. It reminds us of the hazards of nature (God’s creation) but also of how much we have to be thankful for (God’s gifts) – shelter, food, heat, family.

We must also, always, remember that there are those among us who do not share in our blessings. Those who are homeless or who live in substandard environments. If you are so moved, donate to Stepping Stones Shelter, the Red Cross and other organizations that help those less fortunate. And if you see anyone out in the cold with no place to go, call 240-777-4448 (Montgomery County).

If the Torah teaches us anything, it’s to be aware of our blessings and to share them when we can.

Stay safe and warm,
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbah Arlene

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