Parashat With Passion – Torah Reading Cycle – Week #13
This week we will begin reading the Book of Exodus, the second of the five books of Moses. This week’s Torah reading is called Parashat Shemot, which is interpreted “names.”
“Now these are the names of Bnei-Yisrael who came into Egypt with Jacob, each man with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. The souls that came out of the line of Jacob numbered 70 in all, while Joseph was already in Egypt.”
In Parashat Shemot we read about the establishment of the children of Israel in Egypt. Previously, we read that Joseph was elevated to a position of rank and splendor, due to his gift of administration, which prevented the Egyptian empire from being devoured by starvation. Joseph’s position of power allowed the children of Israel to enter Egypt with celebrity status. The Egyptians welcomed the sons of Jacob. There was no anti-Semitism. Everyone got along. This was a great time to be Jewish in Egypt!
Over a period of time, the Bible tells us that “there arose a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph.” How could Egypt forget Joseph, the person who saved the entire kingdom from starvation? Moreover, how could Egypt dehumanize and make slaves of the people that they once called friends? Wow, how the tables turned!
However, those tables didn’t turn over night. Subtle changes created an expression in society where enslavement and genocide became a part of Egypt’s political structure. Isn’t it ironic that history has a way of repeating itself over and over again? We see this same scenario play out in the Trail of Tears, Atlantic Slave Trade, Holocaust, and in many other atrocities throughout the world.
A banner that reads “Never Again,” is elegantly draped outside of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., as a reminder that we cannot afford to look the other way when we see others being oppressed. We must cry out to God, when we see those subtle changes in society that make oppression tolerable. We should never look and turn away. We must have GUTS! Guts to stand up! Guts to speak out!
I will conclude Parashat Shemot with a verse from the hafttarah.
“Those who come, He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” (NKJV)
Last week we learned that God loves community. However, our community is even larger than the community where we live or the congregation we attend. God’s word says that when we “take root” in Israel, we will bear fruit that will fill the entire world. I don’t have to be Jewish to be a part of Israel. I do that very well as a Gentile. Rav Shaul, says in (1 Corinthians 9:22-23), “I have become all things to all men, so that by all means possible I might save some.”
I do not have to be Native American to have empathy for what concerns my Native American brothers and sisters. I cry out to God, when I see Native Americans struggle to hold on to their sacred lands. I cry out to God, as threats of anti-Semitism increase towards the Jewish community. I cry out to God, for the persecuted Church throughout the world. I cry out to God, for oppressed people everywhere. I pray, that when I am in trouble that someone will cry out to God for me.
It is easy for us to cry “Never Again” when it involves us. Yet, when we stand by and watch others being oppressed, and say nothing, we eventually become just as guilty as the oppressor.
When we think of community, let’s begin to see our community as the people that God will bring in our path, in the grocery store, on the bus, riding the subway. Let’s show the WORLD that WE CARE.
Torah: Exodus 1:1 – 6:1
Next Torah Portion: Va’era