Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman for myjewishlearning.com
We can identify with Pharaoh's servants--and this need not make us uncomfortable.
At the Passover seder, we narrate the story of our slavery as a real-time autobiography, as if we are, at that moment, experiencing the Exodus from Egypt. Eating bitter herbs and crunching matzah, we identify with our Israelite ancestors, a nation of slaves on the other side of freedom.
Contemporary liberation movements also find inspiration in the story of the Israelite nation leaving Egypt. Liberation theology, a movement galvanizing social justice throughout Latin America and the Global South, claims the Exodus as a foundational narrative. Robert McAfee Brown, in his book, Liberation Theology, writes, “Oppressed people today identify easily with the oppressed peoples of yesterday, the Hebrew slaves in the story.”
Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Rabbi Neal J. Loevinger for myjewishlearning.com
Moses' complaint and God's response teach us that despite our doubts, we can and should work to accomplish our unique missions in life.
The previous Torah portion ends with the Israelites suffering greatly in servitude to Pharaoh; rather than heed God’s instruction to let his slaves go, Pharaoh increases their workload and even refuses to give them straw for the bricks they must make. Moses goes back to God, and in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, God reassures him that the Israelites will indeed be delivered by God’s own action. The plagues upon Egypt then commence, but Pharaoh will not be moved. Eventually, God “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart, and the plagues upon Egypt continue, becoming more wondrous each time.
BY HANNAH GRAHAM PRESSMAN for myjewishlearning.com
How Two Midwives Tricked Pharaoh
Shifra and Puah's defiance of Pharaoh's decree and allegiance to God set the stage for the liberation of the Israelites.
Parashat Shemot finds the Israelites facing a bitter life of slavery in Egypt. Yet despite the severity of their labors, the people of Israel are increasing their number at an astonishing rate. Pharaoh’s plan to weaken the people through harsh rule and forced labor has the opposite of its intended effect; in fact, “the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites” (Exodus 1:12).
In a desperate attempt to cut off this astonishing capacity to multiply, Pharaoh approaches Shifra and Puah, two Hebrew midwives. The verses below record an act of resistance on the part of these women:
Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
BY RABBI ELYSE WINICK for myjewishlearning.com
All In The Family
Jacob's decision to bless each of his sons individually highlights the need to balance unity with diversity.
Has there ever been a more dysfunctional family recorded in history than ours? Probably, but the fact that our forebears were distinctly human is a source of comfort and strength, both offering us guidance in what to do (and what not to do) and validating the challenges of our day-to-day lives. Parashat Vayechi gives the notion of family, and the diversity therein, great clarity.
His family reunited, Jacob calls his sons together for a fond (mostly) farewell. Each receives a blessing of sorts, or at least a bird’s eye view into his future.
Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
BY RABBI ELLIOT R. KUKLA for myjewishlearning.com
Proximity and Repair
Even if we are unable to fully fix what's broken, we can begin to make a difference by stepping forward.
In my work as a hospital chaplain, I am often privileged to accompany people in the last days of their lives or the lives of their loved ones. I recently spent a long night with Mark, a middle-aged man who had camped out in the waiting room outside his mother’s hospital room. The doctors had withdrawn artificial forms of life support and she was expected to pass away within hours.
Mark had paid for his mother to have the very best health care during the last months of her life, but he had not actually visited her in person. He had not seen her face or held her hand for over ten years. That night, Mark refused to leave the building, but he was also unwilling to actually open the door to his mother’s room, despite pressure from the hospital staff to say goodbye.