Blog

84http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/02/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---02_17_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 02_17_2012
02/16/2012 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 17, 2012

 

This week’s Torah portion is Mishpatim. One of the most familiar verses is the mitzvah, “You shall not oppress the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

                Being strangers in Egypt is remote from our contemporary circumstances. Our rabbis of old were likewise challenged. They lived in the diaspora. It was not Egypt, but it was not the Holy Land, either. They lived in times and places where Jews were tolerated. They were permitted certain freedoms, but they never felt at home. As tolerated Jews, their past imposed upon them an indelible alien status.

                The rabbis took a biblical teaching and turned it into a contemporary lesson for all time. How did they do it? They used to teach the following, “Do not scold your neighbor with a fault which is also your own.” Here, fault doesn’t mean blame; it means weakness or tragic flaw. To find the tragic flaw, we have to look deeply within ourselves to tap into our historical memory as Jews.

                First, historically, we are bound to our ancestors’ struggle in Egypt. If there were ever a tragic flaw from which our people needed to be redeemed it was 430 years of slavery in Egypt. Torah tells us their hearts were “crushed by cruel bondage.” They were redeemed from there by God and they arrived at Sinai to receive Torah. The remedy for Egyptian slavery was Torah, itself. Torah isn’t an elixir that heals because we hold it; Torah is a means to freedom and peace because we live by it.

                Second, the rabbi’s lesson is personal and timeless. The lesson, “Do not scold your neighbor with a fault which is also your own” speaks to us every day. Whatever proverbial Egypt we struggle in, today, doesn’t have to be permanent. Torah is our means to freedom and peace, too. Torah is our salvation.

                I know that salvation is an unfamiliar word to most Jews, but it shouldn’t be. In the Tefilah, the central prayer that speaks of Abraham and Sarah, etc., it also speaks of God as our Savior and our Help. We are delivered by God through Torah and mitzvot. In Judaism, salvation is personal. We are not overcoming original sin; it doesn’t exist in Judaism. Rather, we are overcoming human imperfections and limitations by “holding fast to Torah” and living by its teachings because “all its paths are peace.”

                The only original fault we live with as Jews is the memory of Egyptian slavery. When we recall it we overcome it by recognizing God as Redeemer and Savior. And, then, rather than “save” others which is not our mission, we can empathize with others who are held back by contemporary forms of bondage and work to win their freedom and peace. Is it hunger or homelessness they have to overcome? Is it spiritual emptiness they need to revisit?

                Our Jewish historical memory and personal experiences are linked. We have the unenviable responsibility to carry the weight of all of it with us, and the remarkable ability to learn from it so that we might live by it. May we never go back to times of bondage in Egypt, or in any other land. May we remember and learn from the fault which is also our own, and let us never visit it upon anyone else. Lech L’shalom, may we and all God’s children enjoy freedom and peace.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

Blog Search

Categories

Archives

201806June2
June 2018 (2)
201805May3
May 2018 (3)
201804April4
April 2018 (4)
201803March5
March 2018 (5)
201802February4
February 2018 (4)
201801January4
January 2018 (4)
201712December4
December 2017 (4)
201711November2
November 2017 (2)
201710October2
October 2017 (2)
201708August3
August 2017 (3)
201707July4
July 2017 (4)
201706June4
June 2017 (4)
201705May2
May 2017 (2)
201704April3
April 2017 (3)
201703March4
March 2017 (4)
201702February3
February 2017 (3)
201701January3
January 2017 (3)
201612December4
December 2016 (4)
201611November3
November 2016 (3)
201610October3
October 2016 (3)
201609September4
September 2016 (4)
201608August2
August 2016 (2)
201607July5
July 2016 (5)
201606June2
June 2016 (2)
201605May3
May 2016 (3)
201604April4
April 2016 (4)
201603March3
March 2016 (3)
201602February2
February 2016 (2)
201601January4
January 2016 (4)
201512December4
December 2015 (4)
201511November3
November 2015 (3)
201510October2
October 2015 (2)
201509September2
September 2015 (2)
201508August4
August 2015 (4)
201507July5
July 2015 (5)
201506June4
June 2015 (4)
201505May2
May 2015 (2)
201504April5
April 2015 (5)
201503March3
March 2015 (3)
201502February4
February 2015 (4)
201501January4
January 2015 (4)
201412December3
December 2014 (3)
201411November3
November 2014 (3)
201410October4
October 2014 (4)
201409September2
September 2014 (2)
201408August3
August 2014 (3)
201407July3
July 2014 (3)
201406June3
June 2014 (3)
201405May3
May 2014 (3)
201404April4
April 2014 (4)
201403March3
March 2014 (3)
201402February4
February 2014 (4)
201401January5
January 2014 (5)
201312December3
December 2013 (3)
201311November3
November 2013 (3)
201310October4
October 2013 (4)
201309September2
September 2013 (2)
201308August5
August 2013 (5)
201307July4
July 2013 (4)
201306June4
June 2013 (4)
201305May5
May 2013 (5)
201304April4
April 2013 (4)
201303March4
March 2013 (4)
201302February4
February 2013 (4)
201301January5
January 2013 (5)
201212December4
December 2012 (4)
201211November5
November 2012 (5)
201210October4
October 2012 (4)
201209September2
September 2012 (2)
201208August5
August 2012 (5)
201207July4
July 2012 (4)
201206June3
June 2012 (3)
201205May5
May 2012 (5)
201204April4
April 2012 (4)
201203March5
March 2012 (5)
201202February4
February 2012 (4)
201201January4
January 2012 (4)
201112December5
December 2011 (5)
201111November3
November 2011 (3)
201110October3
October 2011 (3)
201109September4
September 2011 (4)
201108August4
August 2011 (4)
201107July3
July 2011 (3)
201106June4
June 2011 (4)
201105May4
May 2011 (4)
201104April4
April 2011 (4)
201103March5
March 2011 (5)
201102February4
February 2011 (4)
201101January4
January 2011 (4)
201012December5
December 2010 (5)
201011November4
November 2010 (4)
201010October5
October 2010 (5)
201009September2
September 2010 (2)
201008August2
August 2010 (2)
201006June3
June 2010 (3)
201005May5
May 2010 (5)
201004April3
April 2010 (3)
Captavi QixSuite™ - Hosted Marketing Automation Software ©