Shabbat Shalom with a Heart-Healthy Dose of Torah – Bo

In as much as I am trying to detail the trip I am currently participating in … in Israel, I am not in a position to sit down and attempt an earth shattering Torah commentary, but I had to say something on this portion. A large part of our Jewish tradition roots in this week’s text. We read of the remaining plagues brought on Egypt, including death of the first born.


The text tells us that It was the death edict from the mouth of Pharaoh that ultimately turned on his own people. As I am walking through cemeteries and looking at graves, I cannot help but reflect on this last plague that preceded our freedom from slavery. Similarly, the war between biblical cousins Isaac and Ishmael has claimed so many lives needlessly, and the only things that we have to show for the devastation are grave markers, folklore of loss, and a history of seeking our own peace … at the presumed necessary expense of the other.


As I arrived at the Tel Aviv train station I learned that across town, just a short time before, a man that Hamas claims to be a beloved son boarded a bus and stabbed ten people on the bus. Yes, it was an act of terror directed at Israel and its Jews, but of course, he did not check who he was stabbing as his arm slashed at flesh travelling through the bus. For all he knew, he wounded 10 Arab Muslims.


How blind we are when we seek destruction. When we allow ourselves to driven by hate, we may destroy so many lives, but we cannot avoid destroying our own life in the process. Bombs do not discriminate, wars do not discriminate, and as we act in rage, we have no idea on whose side are the people we attack. This is as true on the battlefield as it is in our kitchens, offices, and private life venues when we let go.


Every time we forget that the same source of creation created all of us, that we breath the same air, and share the same finite world resources, we destroy a piece of our own sustaining forces. Israel may have been liberated from Biblical slavery, but anyone who takes solace in the story that it happened at the expense of Egyptian lives cannot be praying to the same God to which I pray. Folks, how do we pray with our mouths for the blessings of divinity at the same time that we use our bodies to destroy the blessings of other lives? There are lots of people praying for love while denying it to others. There are people celebrating the births of children and grandchildren at the very same time that they celebrate the death of someone else’s child or grandchild.


So, I want to offer a challenge … one I have to struggle with, too … we all do. Every time we begin to think, act or speak in terms or ways that would demean or damage another, let’s think how we would feel if someone else did or said that to our own children. If we would revile it happening to our own child, we can never allow ourselves to act that way towards anyone else. Yes, it will take a while for us to become intentionally aware (never mind creating a default behavior) of living with this empathy. I expect that the best of intentions will still see us fail often, but how much greater will be the shalom of this world for every time that we succeed. Our tradition teaches “Mitzah goreret mitzvah – one righteous act begets the next.” Eventually, we will learn how much better the world feels every time we succeed in this venture. No, it will not end violence in the world. It will not root out all the forces set on destroying others, but change has to begin somewhere. Dr. Martin Luther King taught us that hate cannot drive out hate and darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only love and enlightenment can change the world. Shabbat Shalom.