Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Bo

As I am journaling about our trip, I will make one abbreviated thought about this week’s Torah portion. What we do has significance beyond that which we understand. As I am journaling about our trip, I will make one abbreviated thought about this week’s Torah portion. What we do has significance beyond that which we understand.

Often, when we do not think through what we are about to do, we end up with a result far different than anything we had anticipated. We call this rule the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes, the “unintended consequence” provides blessings beyond one’s wildest dreams. Often times, though, our failure to think things through ends up biting us in the rear. We are talking beyond the “leap of faith,” for the “leap” presumes that one has done his/her best to decide. Sometimes, even with best efforts employed, you still have to close your eyes and leap. Often, we never get that far, before thinking matters through, we jump the gun and take the plunge. When it works, it is exhilarating! When it falls short, it really falls short.

This week’s Torah portion bothers me for a host of reasons, but one that screams at me today is the very command for Israel to paint lamb’s blood on their home’s doorposts. God summoned the Angel of Death to come and take every family’s first born male child. The Angel was to pass over the homes painting in lamb’s blood and the Israelites were not to leave their homes the entire night. A two thousand year old commentary on this portion teaches that the command not to go out tells [us] that once the destroyer is given permission to destroy, he does not discriminate between righteous and wicked.”

The episode does end that night, though. The final plague resulted from Pharaoh’s original decree for death of all male Israelite children. God tells Moses that Pharaoh’s decree will come back to haunt him, as his own son will die. Dr. King taught us that hate cannot drive out hate. Jewish tradition teaches that one act begets the next: good begets good and evil begets evil. The cycle is never “one and done.” It will continue until it is broken.

Opening the door for evil here, we know that throughout the journey into “freedom,” Israel continues to live under the threat of war, insurrection, and fear. Even after settling the land, people have never known peace. War begets war as we have, for thousands of years, continued the vicious cycle of power mongering. The Mechilta writer understood that once one opens the door for evil, it does not discriminate. It will continue to destroy lives until someone closes the door. Closing the door can only happen from a place of love and compassion. Slavery built Egypt, and slavery destroyed Egypt. Violence gave Pharaoh power and removed it from him. Violence freed Israel and continued to oppress it. People use violence to gain advantage over others, and violence gives that same power to someone else.

We cannot celebrate the death of the first born of Egypt, even while it leads to Israelite freedom, for it only serves to condemn the one celebrating to violence in the future. Over the course of several thousands of years, we know and teach that the only way to heal the word is to turn our enemy into our friends. Perhaps we will find that good begets better and better begets great. We all know folks who need to be treated better, often better than they treat others. In the end, there might be peace.  Shabbat Shalom.