Shabbat VaYishlah 5776: Sweetening the Bitter Waters

Between the split sea and the fiery mountain, Israel is a wounded, frightened people.  True, they have been emancipated from four centuries of enslavement, but they are not entirely free. Like many who have endured trauma, they are prone to extreme reactions, rejoicing with song at the sea, but exploding with bitter complaints and accusations just…

Shabbat Bo 5775: Exodus, Movement of the People

It is no coincidence that the first mitzvot addressed to Israel come in Shmot, Chapter 12, the same chapter in which the exodus officially begins. Verse 28 says that Israel, “walked and performed as the Lord had commanded to Moses and Aaron; so they did.” Early Midrashim note the doubling of verbs and say that the…

Shabbat Va’Era/ MLK Day 5775: What is Suffering Good For?

Early in the outstanding new film Selma, there is a tense meeting set in January 1965 between pastors of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and young organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The students, who have already been organizing locally since 1963, resent the intrusion of national leaders who come to lead protests and…

Shabbat Sh’mot 5775: Reknitting a Frayed Social Fabric

[Delivered at Minyan Maat, January 10, 2015 This is a difficult Shabbat. In addition to the painful individual losses in our community, we are in shock and mourning over the dreadful attacks in Paris this week, first at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and then at the Hyper Casher supermarket. There is a sense of the…