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Weekly Message 12.24.2021 Parashat Shemot

Parashat Shemot (names) Exodus 1:1-6:1

HafTorah Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22 - 23

Dear friends,

On this Shabbat weekend, we anticipate the new secular year and in addition, begin a new book of the Torah, that of Shemot (Exodus).

As we begin a new year, we think about our future and hopefully, a future that is healthy and fulfilling both in body and in spirit. But in thinking about the future, we should study the past to better understand from where we came, how we arrived at our current stage, and how we can benefit from this knowledge as we prepare for a largely unknown year ahead of us.

As someone who has studied history my entire adult life, I find myself reading between the lines as I encounter Shemot. We have just completed an in-depth study and analysis of Joseph and his impact on Egyptian society and life and the reverence that was bestowed upon him and ultimately upon his father and brothers and entire family by those he served and especially by the Pharaoh who specifically asks our patriarch Jacob to bless him. But generations later, the opposite is true. The Israeli families multiply greatly and somehow become a threat to the new ruling power in Egypt. How could this occur? Clearly, the descendants of Joseph maintained at least a partially separate existence. We are taught that most of them forgot the lessons of their predecessors. It is said that only the Levites practiced monotheism. The remainder evidently tried to assimilate into the culture that surrounded them. According to our Torah portion, they were perceived by Pharaoh Ramses II to be everywhere, dominating the theaters, the culture, and possibly the wealth of the nation. So, as hard as they might have tried to become like the Egyptians, they never completely assimilated and were singled out as enemies of the state leading to their enslavement.

And, of course as we look at history, we see that this is the first of many attempts to blame Jews for everything that is negative in society. In most cases, the Hebrews maintained their beliefs and cultures as during the Middle Ages right through the continuous pogroms of Eastern Europe into the 20th century. However, as we well know, the Nazis didn't distinguish between those who had assimilated into German and Austrian society. All Jews were persecuted.

So, a historical lesson that I take from the Torah Book of Shemot is that scapegoating isn't limited against those who are "different" in their behavior as the Levites living in Egypt suffered the same as those who abandoned the lessons learned by the patriarchs and matriarchs just as the pious Jews suffered the same as those who assimilated in Germany in the 20th century.

Ultimately, it becomes our task to see to it that our nations never suffer again from "hardening of the heart" as did Ramses over and over in the Book of Shemot. We can do this while remaining true to our faith and our mitzvot while reaching out to the community at large with compassion and treating all our neighbors with respect and dignity. I wish you a good year ahead and one in which we learn from history and move forward with good health, happiness, and service to those in our midst who are less fortunate.

I look forward to seeing you tonight at 7:30 pm and tomorrow at 9:30 am in person and on zoom.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ron Becker, Spiritual Leader



Topic: Shabbat Service

Time: Dec 24, 2021 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 497 903 0958

Passcode: 5QdVaA



Topic: Saturday Morning Service

Time: Dec 25, 2021 09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 497 903 0958

Passcode: 5QdVaA


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