Torah Notes – February 2012
Here is just a taste of the Torah you can look forward to in the month ahead. For the real thing, be sure to join us each Shabbat morning at 9 am for a lively discussion of the meaning and implications of the weekly portion. All are welcome. No previous experience required.
February 4 B’shallach Exodus 14:15-16:10
Pharaoh finally lets the people of Israel go. God leads the children of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But all is not well. Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides to pursue the children of Israel. At the shore of the sea the people panic. Moses is told by God to hold his hand high and the sea splits. The people pass to safety but the Egyptians drown. Shirat Ha’Yam, the Song at the Sea (which includes the Mi Chamocha), is sung to celebrate the beginning of their journey to freedom. From the start it is one crisis after another. Following the scene at the sea, there is the bitter waters at Mara, the problem of no bread and meat, and the events at Massa and Meriva. The parashah concludes with the battle of Amalek.
February 11 Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:23
This portion is named after Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, who provides Moses with alternate models of leadership. Moses is reunited with his family (given Moses’ preoccupation with his “job.”) and prepares the people for Sinai. The “10 Words” (aka the Ten Commandments) are given and the people respond: “We will do and we will understand.” This Torah portion challenges us to consider how we learn from others, how we empower others to share our vision, and how we hear/understand the voice of God in our lives.
February 18 Mishpatim Exodus 22:4-23:19
This Torah portion, which discusses important rules, contains 52 of the 613 mitzvot! They cover the full range of biblical law, from criminal law to civil law; ritual laws to ethical laws. The parasha concludes with a formal ceremony of ratification of these covenantal obligations by the leadership on behalf of the people. Moses then ascends Mt. Sinai alone to receive the stone tablets, where he will stay for forty days and nights. This collection of rules seems to interrupt the Sinai narrative. It’s hard to keep track of Moses’ treks. Is he up or down, down or up?! What’s going on here? What do we learn from these laws? Why are they placed where they are?
February 25 Terumah Exodus 26:1-30
This Torah portion contains a beautiful statement concerning the many details required for building the tabernacle that will house the Tablets of the Covenant. “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell in them,” the Torah teaches; not I will dwell in “it” but in “them,” they who are the builders. We learn more here than what it takes to build a structure. We learn about building community and creating something holy. When we engage in a sacred task, we experience God’s in-dwelling spirit within us.