January 17, 2019


1.18.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is BeShallach.  This translates as “When He Sent.”  Each year I find it interesting that Pharaoh had to send the Israelites out of their slavery and he had to send them out strongly, according to the verb in Hebrew.  It is interesting because, after all these years, it is still true – the enslaver/master has to send with force (mental, emotional, physical) the “slaves” from their slavery.  I know it is still true because each time I get released from one of my enslavements, it is because the enslaver/enslavement has forced me to give it up.  Be it anger, resentment, unhealthy fear, etc. all of them stopped working for me way before I let them go.  J  It is just a truism that many of us forget.  This is why T’Shuvah and Recovery go hand in hand and are so necessary to growing our lives.  T’Shuvah gives me the gift of looking at me in Truth and seeing my good and not so good actions.  It allows me to change and to know that change is possible/mandatory.  Following through on this gets me to be in Recovery and live one grain of sand better each day.

What slavery are you still indulging in?  What will it take for you to be forced out of this slavery?  What is your practice of T’Shuvah and Recovery?

 In the beginning of this Parashah, we are told that Moses takes Joseph’s bones with him as he and the rest of the Israelites leave Egypt.  Moses is making good on a promise that an earlier generation made.  I realize that this verse is so essential to living Jewishly and living in Recovery.  Just as God made promises to us in earlier Parshiot, so too did our ancestors make promises that we GET to make good.  I think about the promises of my ancestors, and I am doing a Chesbon HaNefesh, accounting of my soul, to see how I am making good on them.  As a Jew, I am continuing the Covenants made by our ancestors to the best of my ability.  As a Rabbi, I do the best I can to teach and learn relevant Judaism.  As a father, I support my daughter, Heather, in her endeavors and have imparted a sense of belonging.  As a son, I continue to support my mother in every way I can and she needs.  As a brother, I grow my relationship with my sister and brother.  As a husband, I continue to deepen my relationship with my wife. I learned all of these promises from my family and I fall short often.  I see, each time I do my practice of T’Shuvah, where I have missed the mark and continue to improve and know that my missing the marks still hurt others.  I think about the promises my Grandparents made to this country when they arrived from their enslavements, and I honor their courage and their commitment, and I miss the mark.  I think about my parents’ commitment to their family, community, and this country (my father served in WWII), and I do the best I can to emulate them.  It is difficult in this atmosphere to remember that our ancestors made promises and covenants that are left to us to fulfill and we are obligated to fulfill them, even when we want something different for ourselves.

How are you making good on promises that your family made?  What are the ways you continue to make good on the promises of our ancestors from our Torah?  How are you honoring the commitments of our founding fathers – all people are created equal?

 This Parashah also contains the “Song of the Sea,” hence this is Shabbat Shira.  In this song, that was an outburst from the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea, is the verse “Ozi V’Zimrat Ya, V’YaHi Li LiShuah.”  We sing this on Friday evenings here at Beit T’Shuvah to remember Pittsburgh.  This verse translates to “My Strength and Song is God, and He is, was, will be my salvation/savior.”  This is the heart of who we are as human beings.  We cannot be human when we are our strength and song, when we are our own salvation/savior.  In order to be truly human, we have to know that there is a Power Greater than Ourselves, that we have to fulfill the promises of our ancestors and help others.  We have to acknowledge that we can’t do it alone, we need power, wisdom, strength and song from God/Spirit of the Universe.  We need to get out of our “self” to be part of the One Self that is our world, our inheritance, our gift and our need.

What is your song and how are you singing it daily?  How are you a savior/salvation to and for another?  What is your daily practice of Being Human?

 Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark