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Weekly Message 01.19.2024 Parashat Bo

Parashat Bo (come to Pharoah) Exodus 10:1 - 13:16

HafTorah Jeremiah 46:13-28

Dear friends,

After a very active week for our community, including our participation in the Martin Luther King Day commemoration and our hosting the Mental Health First Aid class (thanks to all our congregants and friends who participated in these important events), we prepare for another Shabbat reading the Book of Exodus. This week in the portion of Bo, we encounter the last of the plagues set upon Egypt including the horrific death of the first born, and the preparation to leave the land of slavery with the first Passover. It is only fitting that we read these portions at this time of year. Please see the text of my remarks at the ML King Day program below.

Please join us in-person and virtually on Zoom (login links below) this evening (Friday) at 7:30 pm and tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9:30 am for our services and continued discussions of the themes of Exodus.

And, on Saturday morning, we are all invited by Paula and Barry Cohen to share their enjoyment of their son Gregory's Bar Mitzvah anniversary and a bountiful Kiddush luncheon to follow. Please take advantage of the opportunity to share their joy and congratulate Gregory on this wonderful occasion!

Finally, Barry Cohen and I will be attending the meeting of the Nature Coast Interfaith Coalition on Tuesday, January 23rd at 10 am in Weeki Wachi where we will plan an interfaith camp for youngsters and seniors this coming summer. Please let me know if you would like to travel to the meeting together and help us plan for this event. Hope to see you all in shul this coming Shabbat weekend and at all of our synagogue and community activities!

Ron Becker,

Spiritual Leader



JCC is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Shabbat Service, Friday 01/19/2024 7:30 pm

Time: Jan 19, 2024 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 497 903 0958

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JCC is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Saturday Service, 01/20/2024, 9:30 am

Time: Jan 20, 2024 09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 497 903 0958

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Remarks at the ML King Day Commemoration Program, January 15, 2024, Booker T. Washington School, Port Richey

Faith is Taking the First Step Even When You Don't See the Whole stairs

Dear friends, it is an honor to come before you again on this Martin Luther King, Jr holiday. Last week in synagogues throughout the world, we began reading the Book of Exodus detailing the evils of slavery, the attempt by our Prophet Moses, who was often quoted by Dr. King, to convince the suppressive governing powers (in this case the Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt) to free the slaves, the resistance by that power until horrific plagues beset that nation, and finally to the Exodus of the Hebrew people.

However, just being expelled from Egypt into an unknown land with no experience of freedom for those former slaves, that journey was fraught with fear of an unknown future, living day to day with no idea what the next day would bring, without the tools needed to really be free and self-governing. The Hebrews were to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness as they slowly learned God’s commandments and the way to live moral lives, remembering always to be kind to strangers since they were once “strangers in a strange land”. Think of how difficult it must have been for these people to leave a life they knew well: oppressive and racist, but one in which what little they had was given to them. Many doubted Moses’ optimistic outlook and leadership. Some, completely lacking faith in a better future, demanded that Moses to turn back. Ultimately, only two people who were adults at the time of the release from Egypt survived to see the promised land, Joshua and Caleb. Only those who were small children in Egypt or who were born during the 40 years in the wilderness crossed over the Jordan into freedom. Yet this freedom was still to be struggled and fought for. But now these people who had not experienced the helplessness of slavery, could have the faith and self-confidence necessary to complete the journey.

Just as with the world facing Dr. King in the 1950s and 60s, real freedom seemed so far away, just thinking about it could have been overwhelming. This is the background from which King gave us this famous advice “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole stairs”. Just as with the journey thousands of years ago, we are also on a journey and we have seen a taste of freedom, but we have not completed the journey. Not until hatred, discrimination, war, and poverty are alleviated can that journey end. Yes, we have had the privilege of living through the Great Society and have seen many of the wrongs in our nation righted. But we all know that there is much more to be done. Fortunately, others have taken that first step that Dr. King referred to, but we must be prepared to climb the others, step by step, avoiding the temptation to be overwhelmed when we are rebuffed and in danger of falling off the ladder leading to true freedom. We must have the faith that Dr. King and Moses had that the mountain can be scaled and freedom can be achieved. But we must not be discouraged when we face roadblocks on that climb. We must hate the concept of hatred, but not hate the haters themselves. Through education, we must teach future generations of the dangers of anything less than a free society devoid of hunger and discrimination, and most importantly, always have faith in a future that we can build but might not live to see. Every day is a new day. Even if we don’t know the exact outcome of our influence on that day, we must have the faith to push further to the end, to the day when all people will be free, secure from the stresses of hunger and discrimination. We will continue to face obstacles in climbing that ladder, but faith and love will pull us through. Ron Becker, Spiritual Leader, JCC of West Pasco

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