CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 5
In a Parshat B’shalach, Israel is freed from
Egypt, the narrow place. We, too, are
entrapped by our own narrow places. Enslaved
by the comfort of the familiar and the fear of
change, we remain trapped by behaviors we
know are wrong, but fear acknowledging.
Then, from somewhere within, we encounter a
Moses and realize change is possible.
Our journey to change, like the journey from
Egypt to Eretz Yisrael, is convoluted. Initially,
our resolve, our pillar of fire, leads us forward.
But challenges await us. How easy it is to
become overwhelmed and retreat back to the
familiar. Three times in B’shalach, the Israelites
verge on rebellion, recalling the “comfortable
familiarity” of slavery with fondness.
The way forward to the Promised Land is
fraught with steps backwards. There may be
times when old ways return. This does not
mean failure. Rather, it shows how difficult is
the struggle to escape Egypt. However, this
does not pardon our abandoning the struggle.
Each of us bears wounds and limitations that
make leaving slavery behind difficult. But
difficulty does not grant permission to give up.
Leaving Egypt is the only way we can reach
Sinai, the only way we can reach our potential
as moral beings and as Jews.
The only way the path to redemption fails is if
we lose our vision that freedom is possible and
return to the slave mentality of hopelessness
Every small step forward is a step toward
Before meeting God at Mount Sinai, Moses
meets Jethro as he approaches the Israelite
camp. It is no coincidence. When Moses
and the elders welcome his father-in-law,
the Shechinah accompanies them (M’chilta,
Amalek 3). The Y’rushalmi (Eiruvin 8a) and
M’chilta teach that one who welcomes another
person greets the Shechinah. The people’s
generous greeting of Jethro prepares the way
for God to greet them at Mount Sinai.
Abraham knows the power of an open
greeting. He keeps his tent open on all sides
to greet any strangers who pass by. He learns
this from the example of the Holy One who
“gives to everyone his wants and to everybody
according to his needs. And not to good
people alone, but also to wicked people and
even to people who are worshiping idols”
(M’chilta, Amalek 3)
At a gathering for the eighteenth yahrzeit of
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, I heard a variety of
stories from the eclectic group in attendance.
The common theme was a warm greeting from
Reb Shlomo of “Holy Brother” or “Holy Sister,”
regardless of whether one was Jewish or not,
frum or not. Every individual’s holy presence
was acknowledged. Every story I heard was
about how elevated and valued people felt
when their holiness—their fundamental value—
Every person who ventures into our
synagogues, every person we meet, counsel,
comfort, teach, and encounter deserves
a greeting that acknowledges their innate
holiness. When we sincerely greet each person
we meet by acknowledging their inner holiness,
we merit, as did our ancestors, to stand at
(Bill S. Tepper)
Years ago, my family and I accompanied a
social services van that drove during the night
through the city delivering soup, sandwiches,
and warm clothes to homeless people. Hours
passed and the temperature dropped. How
could anyone live outdoors and survive such
deprivation? What would happen to these
people without the assistance they received?
The Torah tells us, For there will never cease
to be needy ones in your land, which is why
I command you: open your hand to the poor
and needy kin in your land (Deuteronomy
15:11). Parashat Mishpatim adjures us, You
shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you
were strangers in the land of Egypt (Exodus
22:20). In our day and age, the homeless are
“strangers” to us. The parashah goes further
and tells us ways to fulfill this mitzvah: If you
lend money to My people, to the poor among
you, do not act toward them as a creditor;
exact no interest from them (Exodus 22:24).
The same compassion that fuels tzedakah
requires consideration for the poor in other
situations as well: If you take your neighbor’s
garment in pledge, you must return it to him
before the sun sets; it is the only available
clothing—it is what covers the skin. In what
else shall [your neighbor] sleep? (Exodus
Consider this: You shall not subvert the rights
of your needy in their disputes (Exodus 23:6).
Note that the Torah says evyoncha (your
needy). Yes, they are ours—our responsibility.
One way we can fulfill the Torah’s mandate is
by providing space to sleep in our synagogues,
preparing meals, and providing resources for
the homeless. Pirkei Avot 1:5 adjures: Let your
house be open wide; let the poor be members
of your household.
This year, Mishpatim falls on Shabbat Sh’kalim.
The maftir (Exodus 30:11–16) details the
Torah’s command to contribute a half-shekel
toward the maintenance of the Tabernacle.
Why such a paltry sum? To teach that everyone
must be involved; everyone must participate in
the life of the community, in the lives of others.
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 10
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 11
CCAR Newsletter Jan-Feb 2013 - 12