Rabbi Toba Spitzer
The following article is reprinted with permission from SocialAction.com.
If we can speak of a Jewish "liberation theology," then its roots lie here, in Parashat Va'era, in God's second revelation to Moses.
Their first encounter took place at Mt. Horeb, when God introduced Godself to the reluctant prophet by means of a burning bush. Now Moshe has returned to the land of his birth, the land of Egypt/Mitzrayim, where his people suffer the burdens of slavery. Here the Ultimate is introduced once again: "I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name YHVH..." (Exodus 6:2-3).
On first reading, this is quite a strange statement. This particular name of God, YHVH (the unpronounceable, ineffable Name), was used quite liberally throughout the book of Genesis, and in fact this is the name that God uses during that first encounter with Moshe at the bush! Certainly the patriarchs, and Moshe himself, were familiar with this particular name of God?
Rashi, the early medieval commentator, notes that the phrase lo nodati, translated here as "I did not make Myself known," should actually be read as "I did not become known." Rashi suggests that what is at issue here is not a particular epithet for God, but an aspect of Godliness that did not "become known" until this moment. Something is being revealed here to Moshe that has never been revealed before.
What Does This Name Denote?
The first thing we notice is that the fullness of this name "YHVH" becomes known in the heart of that paradigmatic place of exile and oppression: the land of Mitzrayim. A name that incorporates within it a timeless yet dynamic sense of Was/Is/Will Be, a name that denotes Becoming and Possibility, is revealed to Moses as part of a message about the nature of oppression and liberation.
The message continues:
"I have now heard the moaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am YHVH. I will take you out from the labors of the Egyptians, and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God." (Exodus 6:5-7)
Stages of Liberation
God here outlines for Moses four stages in the process of liberation. There are many ways to understand these stages. To be "taken out" could refer to being removed--or removing oneself--physically from an oppressive situation. Hasidic commentators have noted that the first stage in the Israelites' redemption was actually their outcry to God--that until that point, they were so subjugated that they were not even aware of their own oppression. To be "taken out" could thus also refer to an ability to even understand that one is oppressed, that there is the possibility of being removed from the bondage one suffers.
To be "delivered" may refer to a personal process of dealing with internalized oppression. Here we see the importance of not only removing oneself from the physical situation of oppression, but of removing the internal obstacles to liberation that keep us enslaved. But liberation cannot remain on the level of the individual. Even if I am successful in achieving some measure of freedom for myself, whether physically and/or psychically, the oppressive situation remains. "Redemption" then refers to a larger process of working with others to address the cause of oppression, to begin to root out those factors that contribute to any type of enslavement or degradation.
But still, it does not end there--for the Israelites were not only freed from slavery, they were freed for the holy work of serving the Ultimate.
"And I will take you to be My people" points towards the ultimate goal of our personal and communal freedom: to choose service to that which has ultimate value, beyond the limited human goals of wealth, power, and self-aggrandizement. To serve the Power of Becoming, the Source of Possibility, means envisioning and working to create a world where physical well-being and spiritual fulfillment are possible for every inhabitant of the earth.
To be "taken to" God's service is to embrace the Possibility of Becoming, to be able to see beyond the constraints of this historical moment, with all of its violence and ongoing oppressions, towards a place of liberation. To know God, according to this text, is to experience the reality of moving from a state of slavery to one of freedom. And this is a communal endeavor, the text makes clear: it is not enough to just free myself.
God & Freedom
This piece of God's message ends with the words: "And you shall know that I am YHVH your God, who took you out from under the bondage of Mitzrayim." We come back to what it means to know God/liness in a new way. Through the unfolding experience of liberation, the Israelites will come to truly know God, will have a new awareness of and connection to the Source of Life. God becomes known in that place where all of us can be free.
Toba Spitzer is the rabbi of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Massachusetts.
For further insight on the parsha, please visit:
2 Sandy Birnholtz
2 Alana Kuhn
3 Aviad Kapen
4 Aviva Lupovitch
5 David Sable
6 Lorraine Rimar
6 Corey Rosen
7 Ellen Kershenbaum
11 Laurie Kimmel
11 Warren Robinson
12 Joan Freedman
13 Joseph Eisman
13 Kobi Schmeltz
17 Rachel Margolis
18 Benjamin Schmeltz
20 Julian Nusbaum
21 Gail Beale
21 Susan Feber
23 David Hundiak
25 Itzhak Elrom
28 Amnon Reiter
29 David Chudnow
31 Robin Pappas
If your birthday or anniversary information is not listed, please email the synagogue so it can be added to our records.
To make a donation to the synagogue click here.
|SHABBAT SHALOM |
Looking for a unique gift? Donate a humash ($75.00), a siddur ($25.00), or a set ($100.00) to the synagogue in honor or memory of someone you love.
We warmly welcome new members Udi, Debi and Kayla Kapen. We look forward to having them as part of our synagogue family.
B'nai Israel extends mazel tov and welcomes our newest, youngest members, twin daughters born last week to Carrie and Joseph Roth. The new babies are also the grandchildren of B'nai Israel Synagogue members Alan and Gay Taub. We look forward to meeting the new babies soon!
To Debbie Balkin on the recent death of her grandmother.
Welcome to our newest staff members
We warmly welcome our newest staff members, Marni Jacobson and Shira Wolf, who are working together as our youth advisors. Look for exciting programming for 6-8 graders coming soon!
Coming soon: Painting with a Twist, Purim fun, Inter-generational women's seder and much more.
Calling all teens . . .
6th to 12th graders
Sunday, April 21st: National Day of Service.
E-mail Danny Bittker for more information on how to pre-register online.
February 6th, 4:30 p.m.
Teen Leadership Committee meeting.
This meeting is for anyone interested in Teen Leadership or other teen activity opportunities in the community. E-mail Danny Bittker for details.
Save the date:
Sunday, February 3rd:
Ice skating at Campus Martius, pizza, and tour of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. e-mail David Saperstein for more information.
Green Things Farm CSA (Community Supported Agricultural)
Cost: $400.00/15 weeks/one size only!
Pick up: Thursdays, 4-4:30 p.m., TKA/BI parking lot. Memberships fill fast, so visit the GTF website today to sign up: greenthingsfarm.com
Please consider the card that keeps on giving . . .Contact Debbie Singer today to secure a Hiller's Scrip Card. You shop . . . we benefit! Questions? Call the synagogue office: 248-432-2729.
Shabbat Services: Va'era, Rosh Chodesh Shevat
Friday, January 11th
6 p.m. Services, Chapel
Saturday, January 12th
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
Kiddush Lunch is sponsored by the Kiddush Lunch Fund.
Kiddush Lunch is available through the generosity of weekly sponsors. Please e-mail or call Mindy Shuback (248) 752-6046 or call the synagogue office if you would like to sponsor a kiddush lunch. You may also make a donation to the synagogue specifically for the Kiddush Lunch Fund by clicking here.
with Dr. Mitch Parker
This class is held on Shabbat mornings in the lower level, Room 9.
January 12 11 a.m.
January 26 10 a.m.
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
Ice Skating: February 3, 2013. Join us for an afternoon of skating in Detroit's Campus Martius Park, along with kosher pizza and a tour of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. Please e-mail David Saperstein for more information.
Supervised Youth Activities, Room 3, lower level
To stay current on all youth and family activities, contact Ilana Glazier to join the B'nai Israel Families Facebook Group.
|Upcoming Community Events|
TKA/BI Joint OpportunitiesBOOK CLUB (Adults)
Book Club meets on the Third Sunday of every month. All are welcome. The next scheduled meeting will take place
Sunday, January 20th @ 3:30-5:00 PM in the TKA/BI library.
Connie Silver, librarian from the West Bloomfield Library will be joining us. Detailed program info
is available. For a list of upcoming titles and dates, click here.
KNITTING has returned!
Not a knitter? All stitchers are welcome. Bring your needlepoint, crochet hook or cross stitch and join the group. There is no charge to attend.
January 15th, 7 PM at the TKA/BI building.
FUTURE DATES: 2/13, 3/13, 4/24/ 5/21, 6/10
Just drop-in! No registration required. For more information, e-mail Gail Raben.
81st INTER-CONGREGATIONAL MEN'S CLUB DINNER
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
6 p.m., Temple Israel. Click here for complete program information and downloadable reservation form.
Dietary laws observed.
RELAY FOR LIFE 2013
Abby Pook (TKA) is working on a very simple quilting project that you can help with for Relay for Life 2013. Contact Abby by e-mail for more information. Steve Dines (BI) is this year's Relay for Life Entertainment Chairperson. Contact Steve by e-mail to learn how you can get involved.
Monday and Thursday mornings, 7:00 a.m.
Rosh Chodesh mornings, 7:00 a.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7:15 a.m.
Monday-Friday evenings, 6 p.m.
Sunday Morning, 8:30 a.m.
Sunday evenings, 5 p.m.
Legal Holidays, 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Caring Community Information
Our caring community reaches out to one another in a variety of ways. We welcome our new members warmly with a special visit and gift. We provide shiva minyan leaders. We call/visit/provide meals for members who are ill or home-bound, bring a home-cooked shiva meal to mourners in our community, and help to drive members who need a ride to synagogue services and events. If you would like to help in any way, please call or e-mail the synagogue.
Refuah Sh'leimah/Wishing a Speedy Recovery
Please e-mail the synagogue office or contact the synagogue: 248-432-2729, if you have a name that needs to be placed on the mishebeirach list or needs to be removed from the list.
|May Their Memories Be For a Blessing |
1/2/2013 (20 Tevet)
Ela Osher Dzodin
1/3/2013 (21 Tevet)
Morris Band, Hyman Ribiat Robert, Max Wasserman
1/4/2013 (22 Tevet)
1/5/2013 (23 Tevet)
Edsel Kershenbaum, Muriel Trager
1/7/2013 (25 Tevet)
Mildred Robinson, Lillian Saulson
1/8/2013 (26 Tevet)
David Jacknow, Louis Weiss
1/9/2013 (27 Tevet)
Harriett J. Beale
1/11/2013 (29 Tevet)
1/13/2013 (2 Shevat)
Tillie Lantor, Edith Tucker
1/14/2013 (3 Shevat)
1/15/2013 (4 Shevat)
Morris Fishman, Marie Garnick, Lisa Goldstone, Nancy Lynn Precour
1/16/2013 (5 Shevat)
1/20/2013 (9 Shevat)
Lois Shirley Pappas
1/22/2013 (11 Shevat)
1/25/2013 (14 Shevat)
1/26/2013 (15 Shevat)
Dr. David Eisman
1/27/2013 (16 Shevat)
Sheila Cohen, Harry Doneson
1/28/2013 (17 Shevat)
Sam Isaacs, Alvin Nusbaum
1/31/2013 (20 Shevat)
To make a donation to commemorate a yahrtzeit, please click here. If you are a member of the synagogue and a yahrtzeit for your loved one is not on the list, please contact the synagogue office so the information can be added to our records.
Please contact the synagogue office if you wish to permanently memorialize a loved one by purchasing a yahrtzeit plaque.