Thursday, December 27, 2012

The New Year and the Lesson of Egypt

Interestingly, the last Shabbat of 2012 is also the last Shabbat we read from the book of Genesis this year. This coincidence does give us a lens through which to view the year coming to a close, and consider our purpose in the year ahead. This past year has been one with seemingly more than its fair share of uncertainty and sorrow. Our economy, political discord, natural disasters and man-made evil, violence in Israel and pain and suffering around the world seemed to have dominated the news if not also the hearts and minds of so many in this last year. What, if anything can we make of it? What should we do? This last parshah in Genesis picks up the story of the Jewish People with Jacob, Joseph, and all of their family now living in Egypt. Regardless of what the historic Egypt may have been like, when we encounter Egypt in the Torah, and most certainly in later Jewish tradition, Egypt is a place of great sin and suffering; a place you don't want to end up in and if you've left, you don't want to return. Yet here, at the end of Genesis, our ancestors are living there. Why? As we well know, redemption of the Jews from slavery, the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the Exodus and the Return to the Promised Land all were predicated on the Jews being in Egypt in the first place. And here is the lesson - it was only by descending into Egypt, to that difficult place, that the Jewish people could, with God's help, bring about all those miracles. I would suggest to you, that if we look around, and we find that the world is looking kind of "Egyptian," then perhaps we should also check if we are not the Jacobs and Josephs who need to go to work in such a difficult place to bring about a better future. May God bless the work of your hands in the coming secular year. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Benson

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