Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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In this week’s parasha, Moses is born -- in frightening times. Pharaoh has decreed that all Hebrew boys are to be thrown into the Nile; thus, Moses’ parents are forced to hide him. Ultimately, Moses is raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, which saves his life. During the last week of 2017, on a visit to Amsterdam, we had a walking tour of Jewish Amsterdam, which dates to the 16th century when Portuguese Jews fled the Inquisition. Our 83 year-old guide had been a hidden child, during the 20th Century’s frightening times. Like Moses, she had to be spirited away and raised by others in order to survive. Ever since the Book of Exodus, our people have been subject again and again to evil decrees and plots to wipe us out entirely.  Each year as we revisit Exodus, we are confronted with this age-old truth.  We wince at our people’s suffering and marvel at our continued survival in spite of improbable odds.

This week’s parashah contains the dramatic conclusion of the Joseph cycle of Torah readings when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and welcomes the family to Egypt. Just before this revelation, Judah seems to now regret his actions in throwing his brother into a pit and selling him into slavery years before. Truth be told, Judah doesn’t actually apologize, and it may not be remorse that motivates him. But, he seems to be sorry about something. (Gen 44: 32-34) How do we know if someone’s statement of regret for past deeds is truly sincere or is merely a verbal exercise to save face? This question is important for our own relationships. It is also relevant to the statements of those accused in the rash of sexual boundaries violations that has consumed our nation in recent weeks. I will take up this theme in my sermon tomorrow evening.

Perhaps you have noticed the Jewish custom of ending a letter with the word “B’shalom” or L’shalom, “in peace” or “toward peace,” respectively. “B’shalom” seems closer to the English usage, but actually “L’shalom” is more appropriate in Hebrew, and an explanation finds its source in this week’s parasha.  When Joseph sends his brothers back to Canaan while keeping Benjamin as a slave, he bids them farewell with “Alu l’shalom,” usually translated as “Go up in peace.” (Gen 44:17).  But, a better translation is “Go up toward peace.”  The Talmud states that to say “l’shalom” always means to go forward to a peaceful life, while “b’shalom” is associated with eternal peace, that is, death. (Tractate Berachot). That is why letters should be concluded with “L’shalom” rather than “B’shalom,” unless one is expressing condolences.

April FOOD OF THE MONTH: Raisins

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27 Apr 2018
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29 Apr 2018
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Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
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Parashat HaShavuah Torah Study
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