“And the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt, and Moses took the bones of Joseph with him…” (Exodus 13:18-19)
What were the weapons that the Israelites took with them? Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, nephew and student of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, teaches that the armament was comprised of the bones of Joseph. More
Despite God’s message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites’ spirits remain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt. The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendants is recorded. Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate to Pharaoh God’s message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. God brings down the first seven plagues on Egypt: blood, frogs, lice, insects, animal disease, boils, and hail. After each episode, Pharaoh reneges on his offer to let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship God.
Congregations are an expression of God’s presence in the world and an expression of God’s love and care for all humankind. Congregations are places of beauty and simplicity, openness and acceptance, justice and peace. Can we do all that and be all that without belonging to a synagogue? Of course you can; but you would miss one key element.
Can you be a good person without the perceived notion of a divine being forcing you to act nice? Of course; but you would still be missing one key element.
On Yom Kippur, we read from Deuteronomy 30:
“See, I set before you this day life and good or death and evil. … Choose life.”
It is the underlying concept of choice from that parashah which is the underpinning for deciding to affiliate.
And God spoke to Noah and said, “In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed, but I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark.”
In a flash of lightning, God delivered the specifications for an Ark. In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to build the Ark. “Remember,” said God, “You must complete the Ark and bring everything aboard in one year.”
I announced with a bit of fanfare a few days ago that I needed to provide a religious response to the tragic violence and death that occurred over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. In the days that followed, I spoke to a colleague in California and to my friend and colleague who is here this evening, Sat Bir Kaur Khalsa. From our prayerbook this evening, we shared that “we need to purify our hearts to serve God in truth.” I understand two things about my thoughts you will hear this evening: 1) They come from a deep spiritual place; and 2) They certainly are incomplete. With that in mind, I plan in the coming weeks to create the opportunity for other religious leaders in our community to join together and share our doubts and wisdom with each other. As a result of such conversations perhaps some deeper thoughts will prevail.