Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

Shabbat Shalom!


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Torah and Haftarah portions.


Candlelighting for
Friday, January 23, 2015 • 5:31pm

• Our Portion for the Week •

BO – EXODUS 10:1 – 13:16
In this portion we continue the account of the ten plagues with the last three. The plagues of locusts and darkness are described, and then the account is interrupted in order to record a detailed set of instructions that God gives to Moses and Aaron to prepare the Israelites for freedom. They are first directed to establish a calendar starting with the month of liberation, Nisan. The calendar is meant to provide social and religious cohesion as well as to symbolize the free man's ability, indeed responsibility, to mark time. Then follow directions for offering the paschal sacrifice – to be eaten in haste – and for smearing blood on the doorposts and lintels so Israelite houses will be spared the final plague. God then passes over the land and kills all the first-born sons of the Egyptians, whereupon Pharaoh finally sends the Israelites out and they begin their journey toward Sinai. The Exodus is the key event in all of Jewish history, and the instructions given here are by way of assuring that we remember God's role as redeemer to eternity.

• Our Question for the Week •

Tell the people to borrow, each man from his neighbor and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold.
(Exodus 11:2)

What is the significance – and the moral justification – for God's promise of wealth to the Israelites upon their departure from Egyptian slavery? Was the promised silver and gold reparations for Israelite suffering and payment for services rendered? Was Egypt despoiled in order further to humiliate and debase a defeated nation? To reinforce awareness of God's absolute victory over Pharaoh? Were these riches a reflection of amity that developed between individual Egyptians and Israelite slaves despite the repressive system under which slavery was perpetuated?

What good was silver and gold to the Israelites, who were embarking on what would be a 40-year nomadic existence in the desert? Was the deprivation of wealth inflicted on the Egyptians more significant than the material well-being thereby bestowed upon the Israelites?