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A Message From Rabbi Eligberg

A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Bo 5781

22 Moses held out his arm toward the sky and thick darkness descended upon all the land of Egypt for three days. 23People could not see one another, and for three days no one could get up from where he was; but all the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings.       Sh’mot/Exodus 10:22-23

Our teacher, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, in his comment on these verses writes:

“The greatest darkness is when a person does not see his friend, and does not assist with his friend’s suffering… When one does not see the suffering of the other, we become numb and silent so that “no one got up from where he was” to help another.

When we do not see another, or worse, when we choose not to see the other, then darkness truly envelops our world. Rabbi Alter warns of the dangers of a willed blindness to the needs and suffering of those around us and the destructive effect it has on a society and a community.

The Torah goes on to describe that in the midst of the plague of darkness, and residing in the same areas as the Egyptians, “the Israelites enjoyed light in their dwellings”. The Torah presents a contrast between the blindness of Pharaoh who cannot see the suffering of his people through the succession of plagues that afflict Egypt due to his defiance nor perceive the injustices which he has perpetrated against the Israelites. As the midrash elaborates, the Israelites, afflicted and persecuted, supported and sustained each other, establishing a pattern that would be woven into the fabric of the Jewish people, maintained through Jewish history, and reflected in the elaborate network of Jewish support institutions.

The light that pervaded the Israelite homes was not a product of divine intervention, but a reflection of the light created by the Israelites themselves and their commitment to each other. This idea was echoed in the powerful poem presented by Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, at yesterday’s presidential inauguration.

“For there was always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rotenberg-Alter (1799 – 10 March 1866), was the founding Rebbe of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, in the town of Gora, Poland ("Ger" in Yiddish). Rabbi Alter was also known as The Chiddushei HaRim after his commentaries on the Torah and the Talmud.

A Message From Cantor Marx

This week's (January 23) message:

 

Hope is in the air. In Parashat Bo we learn that Pharaoh’s stubbornness comes to an end and the Israelites are set free and are eager to go back to the land of their ancestors.

We are starting a new chapter in the life of our country, and hope is in the air. I full heartedly pray that more and more people will embrace this fresh breeze, that one can feel it when she or he lets it in, and that soon our country will heal from the deep wounds that divides and separates us.

I am sure America will get there faster than it took the Israelites to reach the promised land.

 

Last Week's Messages

A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Va-ehra 5781

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst." Sh’mot / Exodus 7:5

Our teacher, Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk1 observes “that it is through the abundance of signs and wonders that God performs in Egypt that the name of God will become elevated and sanctified. These expressions of divine power will make known to all that God is the Creator and ruler over the natural order… This is necessary so that the Israelites are not only liberated physically from Egypt but that they were liberated spiritually as well.” The Israelites, having witnessed the awesome nature of God, were able to divest themselves of Egyptian religious beliefs regarding polytheism, the idea that the human monarch was an empowered demi-god, as well as the misconceptions regarding the nature of idols.

Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen understands our verse as expressing the essential twofold nature of the Exodus, physical and spiritual. The challenge of filtering the false narratives and erroneous ideas which proliferate in the society in which we reside as Jews, regardless of where we live today. The echo chambers of social media have enabled fringe elements at both ends of the political spectrum to trumpet their virulent hate messages to such a degree that they have insinuated into more mainstream media.

Unlike the generation of the Exodus, we cannot remain passive as the hand of God is manifest and acts to negate the falsehoods of that era. Even more noteworthy, is that the Israelites required regular reminders regarding the nature of God and the ephemerality of idols, as these ideas persist amongst the people for centuries only to be decried by prophet after prophet. The ease with which these distortions persist and pervade in a society highlights the challenge before us to be diligent in verifying the “truths” we embrace, proclaim, and insist upon. It also demands of us that we be willing to respond to the proliferations of malevolent ideas that demean and debase, that promulgate negative stereotypes. That task became ours as an ongoing  expression of liberation.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk (1843–1926) was a prominent leader in the Orthodox community in Eastern Europe. He is best known for his writings on Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and even more notably his commentary on the Torah entitled Meshech Chochma which was published posthumously by one of his students.

 

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In Torah portion Va-eirah we learn that the first seven plagues occur. God hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh rescinds each offer to let the Israelites go. Many commentators focus on the fact that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart basically taking away freewill from the equation.

In our own lives we love believing we have freewill, but I believe the reality is quite different. Humans can easily be influenced and manipulated to do all sort of things. We are all but marionettes of those who just want us to be the best selves that we can be, but sadly there are others whose intentions are all but pure.

One can reach amazing heights with the right support and influence. One can be part of incredible destruction and wickedness when the intentions are less than pristine.

I fervently hope the scenes from last week will never repeat happen again in this or any other countries.

Wishing you all a peaceful Shabbat and stay safe.

Cantor Rogerio Marx

Wed, January 27 2021 14 Shevat 5781