Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz
Unambiguous ambiguity is the hallmark of philology, the study of words. The deeper one delves into the meaning of a given word, the more that particular word yields to shades of meaning. This week's Torah reading, Parashat Bo, presents us with one such example of multilayered understandings and readings. As the Children of Israel depart from Egypt, God issues the first commandment to the Israelites: "This month [Nisan] will mark for you the beginning of the months." (Exodus 12:2). How are the Israelites to mark this new month of Nisan? On the tenth day of the month, the Israelites are commanded to select a lamb which will serve as the Pesah offering to God. What precisely is the meaning of Pesah? And how does the ritual surrounding the Paschal Lamb lend itself to revealing the varied meanings of the word "Pesah"?
To fully embrace the breadth of the word Pesah, we begin by exploring the narrative pertaining to the lamb. Three elements in particular stand out. First, while the Israelites are commanded to take a lamb on the tenth of Nisan, it is not until the fourteenth of Nisan, at twilight, that the lamb is slaughtered. Every household must partake of the lamb. Yet, if a family is too small to consume the lamb in its entirety, Torah urges them to join with other families and neighbors. By inviting others to one's table, this will ensure that the lamb will be consumed by daybreak as commanded by God. More than that, one may read this commandment symbolically. In most cases it is unlikely that a family will be able to consume an entire animal. And so we are compelled to turn outward, to be generous of spirit and welcome guests into our home. This is an act of compassion. One may not sit selfishly eating of the Paschal lamb; Torah enshrines the idea of transcending self and caring for others. Secondly, as the lamb is slaughtered, the Israelites are commanded to "take some of the blood and place it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the house." (Exodus 12:7). The blood of the lamb then serves an apotropaic function. It becomes a sign protecting the Israelites from the tenth plague. The lamb lends itself to protection. And thirdly, Torah, in an unusual step, describes precisely how the lamb should be eaten: "Your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and you will eat it hurriedly" (Exodus 12:11). Clearly, Torah conveys the urgency of the moment. This ritual is about the journey on which the Israelites are embarking.
What then does Pesah truly mean? While we are all familiar with the widespread translation of Pesah as "Passover," we now understand this word in a more nuanced, deeper way. As Nahum Sarna points out in his book Exploring Exodus, and as I have demonstrated above, Pesah has three meanings. Taken collectively, compassion, protection, and the idea of a journey, all speak to various aspects of the meaning of Pesah. God showed compassion to us; now we show our compassion to our fellow Israelites by inviting them to join our celebration. God protected us on the eve of our departure from Egypt; now we seek to expand this message, to protect others who are now oppressed in this world. And finally, just as God "passes over" on a journey, we, too, journey through our lives on the way to a more promised land.
for additional insights on this week's parsha and others, visit The JTS Torah Commentary archive: http://www.jtsa.edu
May Their Memories Be For a Blessing
1/3/2014 (2 Shevat)
Mrs. Tillie Lantor
1/4/2014 (3 Shevat)
1/5/2014 (4 Shevat)
Nancy Lynn Precour
1/6/2014 (5 Shevat)
1/7/2014 (6 Shevat)
Walter M. Stark
1/8/2014 (7 Shevat) Rachel Orzach
1/10/2014 (9 Shevat)
Lois Shirley Pappas
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Friday, January 3rd
6 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv, Chapel
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
10 a.m. Supervised Youth Activities, Room 3 for ages 12 and under.
Kiddush Lunch is sponsored by the Kiddush Lunch Fund.
SHABBAT SHIUR FUTURE DATES: 1/25, 2/22, 3/29, 5/10, 6/21. SHABBAT SHIURIM ARE IN THE CHAPEL AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF LUNCH AND PRIOR TO MINHA.
*Kiddush Lunch is available through the generosity of weekly sponsors. Please e-mail 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.
Mazel tov to Ken and Shula Brown on the birth of their new granddaughter, Zoe Emma Brown. Mazel Tov as well to Zoe's parents, Shaw and Jennifer Brown, and to her big brother, Ian Wesley.
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
FAMILY CAMP 2014 MARCH 21st-23rd
Registration available first week in January. Priority Registration for BI and TKA members and $100.00 off if form and payment are received by January 24th. First come, first served.
MCUSY (USY, grades 9-12) Havdallah at the Downtown Synagogue, followed by ice skating at Campus Martius Park.
Bus to and from the West Bloomfield JCC for this event. Watch for additional Details coming soon.
Family Night at Minyan, last Sunday of the month.
Bring your family to help make minyan at 5 p.m., enjoy pizza dinner in the social hall. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: 1/26, 2/23, 3/9 (Special pre-Purim Activities), 4/27, 6/1
Upcoming Shabbat Youth Activities
SHABBAT CHILDREN'S WORKSHOP DATES for youth ages 7-12. 30 minutes of tefilla and parsha fun.
11-11:45 a.m., ROOM 9
JANUARY 11TH, JANUARY 25TH, FEBRUARY 1ST, MARCH 1ST,
APRIL 5th, MAY 3 (10:30 A.M.)
SHABBAT TEEN ACTIVITIES
D'VAR TORAH COCOA CAFE for ages 13-17,
11:00-11:45 a.m., Social Hall
Listen to the D'var Torah in the main sanctuary, then give your take over cocoa and cider. Kiddush lunch following, with Spirited singing and Birkat Hamazon led by teens.
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
DECEMBER 14TH, JANUARY 11TH, JANUARY 25TH, FEBRUARY 1ST, MARCH 1ST, APRIL 5TH, MAY 3RD
SHABBAT ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN AGES 3-5 January 25th, Room 3.
To stay current on all youth and family activities, contact Ilana Glazier to join the B'nai Israel Families Facebook Group.
Developing Your Character Through Mussar
Monday evenings, January 20th, 27th and February 3rd
7-8:30 p.m., TKA/BI Room 2
Join Rabbi Robbins and explore Mussar, the ancient Jewish practice of self-examination and character development through the prism of Biblical exemplars and rabbinic texts. Delve into traits such as humility, patience and gratitude. Each class builds on the previous class session, $36.00 for the series. RSVP to email@example.com.
"Reflections on the Siddur," with Dr. Mitch Parker
Saturdays, 11-11:45 a.m.
Mitch will focus on Ashrei, Aleinu, the Kaddish, Adon Olam, Yigdal, Hallel and Birkat Hamazon.
Class meets in the lower level, Room 9.
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to let us know your interest. Classes/one-on-one tutoring opportunities will be formed based on interest generated.
Do you or your post-adult children have a special Haftarah or Torah reading that you have previously read or would like to read again?
Please e-mail the synagogue to be included in scheduling.
Lunch and Learn Series
with Hillel Buechler, Ramah Fellow
First Tuesday of every month
Next session: 12:15 p.m., January 7th
Meet at Barnes and Noble on Orchard Lake Road Bring your own lunch. There is no charge to attend. Future Dates: February 5th, March 5th, April 9th. Please e-mail Hillel Buechler if you plan to attend.
Adult Education Series with Professor Howard Lupovitch
Location: Congregation Beth Ahm
"Transforming the Jewish Landscape: Great Jewish Philanthopists."
Tuesday, January 7: "The Rothschilds and Baron De Hirsch"
Tuesday, January 14: "The Bronfmans and Max Fisher"
7:30 p.m., Beth Ahm. $15/session or $25/series
Advanced registration requested, walk-ins welcome:
Shabbat Shiur Series
Shabbat Afternoons, last Saturday of the month following lunch and prior to minha. Shiur (class) will meet in the chapel. All our welcome. There is no charge to attend.
Upcoming Tikkun Olam
and TKA/BI Joint Opportunity
SOUTH OAKLAND SHELTER
HOUSING OF GUESTS AT TKA/BI,
MARCH 23-30, 2014
2 Sandy Birnholtz
3 Craig Gittleman
3 Avi Kapen
4 Aviva Lupovitch
5 Hadley Roth
5 Sophia Roth
6 Lorraine Rimar
6 Corey Rosen
7 Ellen Kershenbaum
11 Laurie Kimmel
11 Warren Robinson
12 Joan Freedman
13 Joseph Eisman
13 Kobi Schmeltz
18 Udi Kapen
18 Benjamin Schmeltz
21 Gail Beale
21 Susan Feber
23 David Hundiak
25 Itzhak Elrom
26 Lois Wonboy
28 Amnon Reiter
29 David Chudnow
31 Robin Pappas
15 Marvin & Edith Kozlowski
18 Ofer & Julie Ohana
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B'nai Israel Synagogue is affiliated with USCJ,
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.