Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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During this week in January when we remember the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. local clergy are asked to speak on the subject. Therefore, my sermon tomorrow night will be on the topic of “I May Not Get to the Promised Land,” a paraphrase of words used by King in his last speech, the night before he was assassinated in 1968. That night in Memphis, King stated that if he could live in any age, he would “take (his) mental flight by Egypt, through or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on and toward the promised land.” (April 3, 1968) Later in the speech, he intimates that his death his near, prophesying: “I may not get there with you.” By coincidence, we read the beginning of the moment that King wanted to relive by time travel in Torah portion Bo: “That very day Adonai freed the Israelites from the land of Egypt, troop by troop.” (Ex 12:51)

Early in this week’s parasha, we hear the state of mind of the Israelites described as “kotzer ruach.” (Ex. 6:9) A literal translation is “shortness of breath,” which is how Rashi translates it. But “ruach” is both spirit and breath in Hebrew, which is, in and of itself, interesting. Therefore, we also find translations like “shortness of spirit” (Everett Fox), impatience (Nachmanides) and “dispirited” (Michael Walzer). Those who practice meditation, yoga and breathing know that breath and spirit are indeed intertwined and interdependent. Concentrating on breathing is a way to control, focus and calm one’s spirit. When we are short of breath, we are short of energy and perhaps even seriously ill. When we are short of spirit, we are short of passion, hope, and the ability to act. This is the condition Moses and Aaron found the Israelites in when first approaching Pharaoh to free them from bondage. They needed to learn to breathe and realize that they had a life force yet in them--physically and spiritually.

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.

May FOOD OF THE MONTH: canned or dried beans

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This Week at BHT

21 Jun 2018
12:00AM
Visibility Event
21 Jun 2018
06:45PM -
LC Meeting
22 Jun 2018
05:45PM -
Kabbalat Shabbat
26 Jun 2018
04:00PM -
Shalom Center Soup Kitchen
27 Jun 2018
07:00PM -
Food for Thought Class
29 Jun 2018
05:45PM -
Kabbalat Shabbat
01 Jul 2018
12:00AM
MCC Pledges Due New Year