Your Shabbat Guest
With each and every Shabbat spent in Bakersfield, I am inspired by both the questions asked, and experiences relayed by congregants – young and old.
During last weekend’s visit, I taught about the development of Jewish law through the Torah portions of Yitro and Mishpatim. The former offers a blueprint of law, life, and ethical behavior. It is as if in each of the “commandments,” the people are being told that they are different … and offered a broad stroke approach to living differently.
As God’s “chosen,” the people are being called upon to accept MONOTHEISM, sanctify Shabbat, and refrain from behavior that is abhorrent to God – the God who has taken them out of Egypt – from slavery, to freedom.
The “blueprint” is just that. There are no specifics regarding how the people are to live a life of “commandments.” What does it mean “do not steal, do not murder, do not covet?” For a newly-liberated people, the “blueprint” is amazing … but can also be vague and bewildering.
As I taught pieces of Mishpatim, I could see lights go off. These were lights of understanding and comprehension on the part of the assembled Kehillah. This next level of laws concerns itself with social, legal, and familial interactions – as well as the pursuit of justice.
With the lights of understanding came questions – Why are the Israelites, just liberated from the slavery of Egypt, being offered guidance/rules on how to treat slaves that they acquire? This was particularly challenging for some in the Kehillah. One explanation that sat well with the group was that slavery in Egypt was oppressive, with no way out. While not 21st century “perfect,” there are rules regarding how long a slave can be owned – and what the obligations of master to slave actually entail.
When I suggested that the “Ten Commandments” were comparable to a social constitution, and Mishpatim was actually the beginning of the process of amendments – this was understood clearly.
The learning, davening, singing, and social interaction that is going on during each of my visits to Bakersfield is truly inspirational. Relationships are being developed. A number of new households have joined our community. These newcomers have brought a fresh, exciting, and welcomed outlook to our group. We are stronger for the new “blood” in our veins.
Today is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar. It is said that when Adar enters, joy increases. Purim is two weeks away … which means that Pesach is just six weeks down the road (OY!).
May the joy of Adar bring a vision of peace and happiness to all within reach of these “Notes From The Road.”
Notes from the Road - Rules and Laws, Laws and Rules!