From the Rabbi’s Study…Shabbat January 5, 2024/24 Tevet 5784
Last week’s Torah portion was the last chapter in the Book of Bereshit/Genesis, which contained the last years and death of Jacob, Jacob blesses his son Joseph and his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim, Jacob blesses all his sons (notice the absence of his daughter, Dinah), Joseph reassures his brothers that they will be safe, and promises to care for them and their families, Joseph dies at age 110 (120 was the years for his life. However when his brothers stated to Joseph “our father your servant” twice and he did not correct them, G-d took 5 years off his life for each mistake), Joseph instructs his family before he dies to return his bones to the Holy Land, which will be done 400 years later by the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt.
Bereshit contains: 1534 verse, 43 chapters and 12 Sidrot
This week the world celebrated the secular New Year, and this Sabbath the Jewish people read from the Torah the first chapter of Exodus. A new Pharaoh comes to power and does not remember Joseph all he did for the Egyptians, and he orders all the Israelite male children drowned. Baby Moses is put into a basket and set afloat on the Nile River, Moses is saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses kills an Egyptian who was fighting with and Israelite and flees for his life to Midian, G-d speaks to Moses out of a burning bush and tells him that he and his brother Aaron will liberate the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and Pharaoh imposes hard labor upon the Israelites.
Some of the most extraordinary concepts and values are in this Torah portion. One the first ever justified civil disobedience was by two Hebrew midwives Shifra and Puah that refused to carry out the Pharaoh’s command to drown the male infants. These women had the fear of G-d, however they believed in the sanctity of life. The Jewish beliefs and conviction that there is a Higher Power than Pharaoh who makes moral demands of human beings.
Another value comes from Moses and his humility about becoming the leader of the Israelites. Also, one most interesting concept is how G-d is conceived by each generation in a different way. When G-d reveals Himself to Moses at the burning bush,calls Himself -”I will be what I will be.” Rashi the medieval commentator suggests that this teaches that no tongue can ever express all that G-d will be to those who truly believe in Him (Midrash, Shemot Rabbah 3:6 ff.) In another way, every generation conceives G-d in a different manner, and every age G-d is likely to reveal Himself in new ways. When the prayer, Amidah G-d is called the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Issac, and the G-d of Jacob and we now add the G-d of Sarah, the G-d of Rebecca, the G-d of Rachel, and the G-d of Leah for each patriarch and matriarch saw G-d in a different manner.
Today, Israel is at war against the barbarian hate groups of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in the North. People around the world watch and probably wonder why the Israelis ask the people in Gaza to move to safety. The answer is from this Torah portion. Life is believed to be precious. Killing is pure evil. Each human being is created by G-d and each is unique. As Jews we hear shouts for our death, from the river to the sea, and we even see some Jews holding signs that proclaim to free Palestine (these are a radical small group of Jews that believe that Israel should not exist until the Messiah arrives). We hear many nations of the world asking Israel for a cease fire. Yet, we know there are hostages, which are innocent Israeli citizens and some from other countries including our country.
When the true leader of Hamas is the Iran leader that states numerous times that October 7th will happen again and again. The Jewish people are well aware that each life is precious, but evil only wants death and destruction. This time in history is never to be compared to the Holocaust, since in the Holocaust dark era only a few countries and righteous gentiles saved Jews. One country was Denmark who helped ALL JEWS leave in one night to Sweden. Another country was England that saved children. One more small country was Switzerland. The world’s borders were closed to Jews and they were SILENT! Humanity was lost!
Today, the October 7th barbaric attack on Israel goes beyond words. Today, most of the nations around the world show their support for Israel in many ways because they realize now that each life matters and that barbaric evil must be destroyed.
SO…every Shabbat many Jewish people including me light an extra candle for those in Israel that are fighting and dying, others are saving lives, and all are striving to protect our ways of living a full Jewish life in safety. We continue to add and recite the extra prayers for Israel.
AM Ysrael Chai! Long Live Israel!
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder