The power of the final plagues.
By Rabbi Ismar Schorsch
Darkness unsettles us. As children we went to sleep with a small light on; as adults we prefer to come home to a dwelling not totally dark. We fear what we cannot see. It is for this reason that we start the evening service with the recitation of a verse from Psalm 78: "But he, the compassionate one, would expiate sin, and not destroy; he would again and again turn back his anger, and would not arouse his full wrath" (v. 38, trans.by Edward J. Greenstein). As the darkness of night envelops us, we affirm God's nearness. God does not withdraw with the setting of the sun.
We intone ma'ariv [evening prayer service] only after the appearance of three stars. It begins with barkhu, the call to praise God in a minyan [prayer quorum of 10]. Yet before that summons to prayer, we softly recite for ourselves vehu rahum . . . The verse is there to offset our anxiety with the onset of night. It avers the opposite of what we fear.
According to the midrash, the first time Adam experienced nightfall, he was overcome with dread. That first Shabbat of God's newly created world had lasted 36 hours. As it ended, Adam feared that under cover of darkness his mortal enemy, the snake, would do him harm. To assuage his angst,God provided Adam with two flints from which he produced fire. During the havdalah ceremony ending Shabbat we still recall that initial act of human creativity by saying a special blessing over fire praising God for enabling Adam to dissipate the darkness (Bereshit Rabba 11:2). Similarly, the ritual of starting ma'ariv with vehu rahum was inspired by the tinge of Adam's primordial dread that assaults us nightly.
Darkness by Day
The ancient Egyptians called the experiential absence of divinity "darkness by day." How much more frightening is the reversal of nature! They worshiped the sun not only as the source of their well-being but as the regenerator of creation on a daily basis. From the Middle Kingdom on the king was venerated as the son of Re, the living incarnation of the sun."The mystery of solar rebirth is in fact the central, salvational element in Egyptian religion" (Jan Assmann,The Mind of Egypt, p. 209).
Hence, it is no accident that darkness unites the final three plagues that God hurls against Egypt. The locusts darken the face of the earth, if not the sky itself (10:5, 15). The darkness that follows is so thick that one could touch it (10:21-22). And the killing of the firstborn occurs in the depth of the night. Darkness forebodes devastation, even for the descendants of Jacob.
While the plague of darkness did no more than intimidate the Egyptians, underscoring the impotence of their supreme deity, it wreaked havoc on the Israelites. Rashi stresses that God used the three days of pitch black to eliminate all those Israelites who did not want to leave Egypt. True, Goshen where the Israelites resided was bathed in sunlight. But the darkness over the rest of Egypt concealed from the Egyptians all knowledge of their fate, thus denying the Egyptians any comfort (Rashi on 10:22).
Nor should we think the losses were light. On the contrary,Rashi tells us later that only one out of five Israelites left Egypt. The rest were not deemed worthy of redemption and perished unbeknown to their taskmasters (Rashi on 13:18).
Association with the Firstborn
Night is also associated with the slaying of the firstborn. Moses issues two commands to his people to avert tragedy: to cover the linteland doorposts with the blood of the lamb and to stay indoors. In a memorable formulation, the midrash posits the reason for the second: "Once permission has been granted to the destroyer to terrorize, it no longer distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked" (Mechilta d'Rabbi Yishmael, Horowitz-Rabin ed., p. 38). click here to continue reading Rabbi Schorsch's commentary.
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch served as chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
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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
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|SHABBAT SHALOM |
Coming soon: Painting with a Twist, Purim fun, Inter-generational women's seder and much more.
CALLING ALL 6-8TH GRADE STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS: Come meet with our new Kadima advisors, Marni and Shira to discuss upcoming events and programming.Monday, January 21st, 7 p.m. in the social hall at TKA/BI. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Camp Ramah in Canada Open House
Sunday, January 27th, 6:30 p.m.
at the home of Daniel and Marni Cherrin.
Sunday, February 3rd, 12:30p.m.-2p.m.
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 synagogue when looking for a place for a charitable contribution or in your estate planning.
Shabbat Services: Bo
Friday, January 18th
6 p.m. Services, Chapel
Saturday, January 19th
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
Kiddush Lunch is sponsored by Andy and Libby Beider
in honor of the wedding of their daughter Brittany to Brandon Morgan and in honor of their new granddaughter, RaeJean Morgan.
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 26 10 a.m.
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
Ice Skating: February 3, 2013
for more information.
Upcoming Youth Services
Supervised Youth Activities, Room 3, lower level
January 26, February 9
February 16 (special program), February 23
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.
TKA Sisterhood Day of Beauty:
February 10th, 12p.m.-3p.m.
$25.00 includes lunch and beauty consult
RSVP by February 1st to Connie Silver: 248-851-2149 or
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.
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.
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)
David Benisty, Mel Rogoff
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)
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