D'var Torah (A bit of Torah study from Rabbi Feingold) Yitro
In this week’s parasha, BEFORE the commandments are given in an impressive theophany at Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19: 8 records that the people answered “as one” that they would do them: “All that the Eternal One has spoken, we will do.” It was an act of trust and imagination that enabled the Israelites to believe, before ever hearing the commandments, that they would be right and good because they came from the One who led them from slavery into freedom. The people were hopeful based on past experience and reason. It worked out well for our ancient ancestors. But what happens when trust and imagination based on past experience and reason leads us astray? What happens when leaders take us down a path that diverges, at points, from our most basic Jewish values? Many are asking these questions in these first 100 days of the new United States Administration. The text and questions raised here will be the basis of my sermon tomorrow night at 7:30pm Shabbat services.
D’var Torah (A bit of Torah study from Rabbi Feingold) Beshallach
In this week’s Torah portion, we come to the story of the parting of the Red Sea, but throughout the Torah, it is referred to as Yam Suf, which translates to Reed Sea. It is not known if there was a mistranslation along the way or if the Sea carried more than one name. Apparently there are red algae blooms that could account for one of the names, and the Sea does have areas, particularly in the north near Egypt, with many reed plants as well. This area is often thought of as the site of the story in this week’s parasha. At the southernmost tip of Israel is the city of Eilat, sitting on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, an extension of the Red Sea. In the 1970s, when Israel had possession of the Sinai Peninsula, I was twice on camping trips which took us further down the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, until we finally reached and snorkeled off of the amazing coral reefs of Ras Muhammad, the tip of the peninsula that is situated on the northernmost point of the main body of the Red Sea. Everything south of Eilat is now in the possession of Egypt, as it had been prior to the 1967 Six Day War. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in a peace deal in 1979.
D’var Torah (A bit of Torah study from Rabbi Feingold) Bo
In Torah portion Bo, the exodus finally occurs: “At the end of the four hundred and thirtieth year (of the sojourn in Egypt), to the very day, all the ranks of the Eternal One departed from the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12:41) Recall that our Israelite ancestors came to Egypt as refugees, fleeing famine in their homeland of Canaan. In Joseph’s time, they were welcomed, but the Pharaoh of Exodus feared our ancestors as an internal threat. (Ex. 1) Today’s America reverberates with echoes of this story. A fear of foreigners has already caused our nation to reject many seeking refuge here. Fear is a powerful force. It is crucial that we rise above xenophobia, lest our nation become a modern-day Egypt that embraces wholesale a worldview that allows the oppression of newcomers and leads to a modern day exodus.