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Rabbi's Message, Parshat  Vaera

12/31/2021 10:24:52 AM

Dec31

Rabbi Benjamin Samuels

Imagine living during the ten plagues of our parashah. First, imagine you are a slave - a member of B’nei Yisrael. Next, imagine you are an Egyptian, one of the regular population without power or influence. Then, imagine you are a member of the Egyptian aristocracy. Let’s stipulate that you recognize the moral bankruptcy of your Pharaoh's kingdom, but you have everything to lose from radical social change. Now, take those differing perspectives and change the challenge. Consider not living through the ten plagues, but through any number of conflicts and challenges of our time. How does considering multiple viewpoints help our thinking? How do we look beyond the plagues of the present, whether from a vantage of victimization or privilege, to the promise of a better future? How do we turn a context of despair into a narrative of redemption? 

This week, our Shul’s Afghan resettlement project has started its work to help two Afghan men begin to build their own narrative of personal redemption. Like all narratives of redemption it will likely be a process of challenge, set back, and please God, ultimate success. This week, a horrible abuse scandal emerged in the Haredi community in Israel. The damage done to the victims is unfathomable. Can Haredi (and larger Jewish) society learn from this tragedy and build upon it towards a safer, more healthy future? This week, we have entered a new stage in the Covid19 pandemic. Although there is some indication that the individual health risk of the Omicron variant may be lower than previous variants, the public health risk is greater since its high contagiousness means more people will get it, and the number of serious illnesses will be larger thereby overwhelming the hospital and medical care system. As we continue to figure out how to live “normally,” while being Covid-safe and responsible, we must take into account not only our individual risk level, but how our own behaviors put the larger public at risk. Our medical advisors counsel: get vaccinated and boosted, upgrade your masking usage, and stay home if you have any symptoms whatsoever. An infectious disease doctor told me this week that there is no clinical way to tell the difference between a common cold and Omicron without testing. 

There is a perpetual mitzvah to recall the Exodus through our twice-daily recitation of Shema. To be a Jew means to have hope, to believe that we can surmount our current challenges and stride toward freedom and redemption. This weekend, with New Year’s, we celebrate with our larger world the idea of new beginnings. May 2022 lead us from despair to hope, and may we actively and responsibly engage in the building of redemption.

Shabbat shalom and Happy New Year, Rav Benjie

Thu, January 27 2022 25 Shevat 5782