From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur” p.516
FOR OUR COUNTRY
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/va-eira
Va’ëra (וָאֵרָא – “I (God) appeared [to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]”) – Ex. 6:2-9:35
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Eternal.” – Exodus 6:2
- Despite God’s message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites’ spirits remain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt. (6:2-13)
- The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendants is recorded. (6:14-25)
- Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate to Pharaoh God’s message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. (7:8-13)
- The first seven plagues occur. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh rescinds each offer to let the Israelites go. (7:14-9:35)
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Va%27eira#Haftarah
Connection to the Parashah
Both the parashah and the haftarah describe God’s instructions to a prophet to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt and bring on Israel’s redemption. Both the parashah and the haftarah address God’s judgments (shefatim) against Pharaoh and Egypt. A monster (tannin) plays a role in both the parashah and the haftarah: In the parashah, God turns Moses’ rod into a monster; the haftarah describes Pharaoh as a monster. In both the parashah and the haftarah, God attacks the river and kills fish. In both the parashah and the haftarah, God’s actions would cause the Egyptians to know (ve-yade’u) God. And in both the parashah and the haftarah, God proclaims, “I am the [Eternal One].”
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Va%27eira
Va’eira (וָאֵרָא — Hebrew for “and I appeared”) – Ex. 6:2-9:35
The [complete] parashah tells of the first seven Plagues of Egypt. It begins with God telling Moses, “I am the Eternal. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai but, I did not make Myself known to them by My name יהוה (YHVH).”
In the triennial part of Va’ëra, Ex. 7:8-8:15, God begins visiting the ten plagues on Egypt. The part begins with God telling how Aaron can throw down his rod to become a snake, which he does before Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s magicians do the same but Aaron’s swallows theirs. Pharaoh’s heart is stiffened. The first three plagues of דָּם (dam-blood), צְפַרְדֵּעַ (tz’fardë’a-frogs), and כִּנִּים (kinim-lice) are described. With the first two plagues Pharaoh’s magicians are able to do the same as Aaron. With the third, however, they are unable to and say, “This is the finger of God!” Pharaoh’s heart stiffens each time.
In Modern Interpretation
The late Nahum Mattathias Sarna, a modern biblical scholar best known for the study of Genesis and Exodus, noted that Aaron, not Moses, turned his rod into a snake in Exodus 7:10. Sarna explained that Moses thus tacitly asserted his equal status with Pharaoh. Moses came to negotiate with Pharaoh as the representative of the people of Israel. Just as Pharaoh had his magicians, Moses had his assistant, Aaron. Sarna noted that in the narratives of the Ten Plagues, Aaron acted only as long as the Egyptian magicians appeared present. After their ingenuity failed them and they faded from the story, Moses acted personally to bring about the remaining plagues.
In Critical Analysis
Some scholars who follow the Documentary Hypothesis find evidence of three or even four separate sources in the parashah. These scholars see evidence of the Elohist — (sometimes abbreviated E) who wrote in the north, in the land of the Tribe of Ephraim, possibly as early as the second half of the 9th century BCE. The parshah has evidence in it of the Priestly source (sometimes abbreviated a P) and a Redactor (sometimes abbreviated as R). It appears as if the Redactor was using a “Book of Records” for the genealogy stopping with Aaron.
After each plague, Pharaoh would relent momentarily but then “stiffen his heart” again. In current times, we continue to witness various officials in high places, including the very top, do the same. Now, as then, the consequences are dire.
In a Temple Sinai-Oakland email sent earlier this week from Senior Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, Congregational President Jon Braslaw, and Executive Director Terrie Goren they state, “[t]he Reform Movement has been very clear as to our collective stance on [recent] events…. Our movement has been involved in the fight against inequity and injustice throughout our history, and our social justice work continues to this day.”
Temple Kol Hamidbar is a part of the Reform Movement and agrees with both its stance and fight for social justice. We are committed to caring for one another regardless of personal perspective and politics because much more unites us than divides us. As such, we continue to provide weekly Torah Study and Erev Shabbat Services, which we call Shazoom, as well as other opportunities for our members and friends to “gather together” and support one another.
It is our goal to “repair the world’’ (Tikkun Olam) wherever, however and whenever we can. In the words of Deut. 31:7, we encourage each other in this by saying “Chazak ve’ematz” (חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ) – “Be strong and resolute.”
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, COVID-19, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, January 15, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Va’ëra (triennial part) Exodus 7:8-8:15
Time: Jan 15, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jan 15, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!