Program Note: If you are studying for or completing your bar or bat mitzvah you can work with your rabbi, cantor or religious school teachers to complete the Ner Tamid emblem for Scouts BSA. Your studies and efforts will prepare you to easily complete nearly 70 percent of the requirements. The Ner Tamid emblem will enrich your Scouting life and make you eligible to apply for one of several scholarships awarded by the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.
This week at services during Passover, we are reading Torah portions that have to do with our redemption from slavery in Egypt and the first Passover. On Shabbat, we will read a portion of Parsha Ki Sisa, which we read several weeks ago. This week, we read Exodus 33:12 – 34:26.
These verses come after Moses has seen the Children of Israel worshipping the golden calf and he has smashed the two tablets on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments. The selection begins with Moses asking God to accompany the people on their journey to the Land of Israel, and God responds “My Presence will go with and provide you rest.”
Moses asks that he be permitted to see God’s glory. God responds this would be too much for any human to live through. God tells Moses to stand in the cleft of the mountain, God will pass by and shield him and Moses will be able to see God’s back, which the Sages interpreted as the back of the head, where the knot of the head tephillin is worn.
God instructs Moses to carve two new tablets and Moses again climbs Mt. Sinai for God to inscribe them with the Ten Commandments. Moses called upon God with the holy name we refer to as Hashem (the Name), and God responded with the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that we repeat on Yom Kippur: “Hashem, Hashem, God, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error, and Who Cleanses.”
Knowing that the Israelites were capable of making terrible mistakes such as worshipping the golden calf, God teaches Moses the people can be redeemed with this prayer if they are sincere in repenting and not repeating their mistake. Not only had God redeemed the people a few weeks before by taking them out of Egypt, God redeemed them a second time with this prayer for mercy.
Redemption is freedom from someone else’s rule over you. In redeeming us from Egypt, God freed the Jewish people from the physical restrictions on our bodies created by slavery and from the degradation of our spirits created by living in a land dominated by idol worship.
This Passover, we are struggling with physical limitations caused by coronavirus. We cannot be with our friends at school and Scouts. We cannot be with some of our family members at seder and services. These physical limitations can also affect our spirits, so Be Prepared to be Obedient by following rules about social distancing, Loyal to our friends and families by staying in touch with calls and social media visits, Cheerful and Friendly with everyone because they are feeling the same restrictions you are, Helpful to our families in a time of stress, and Reverent by making Passover and Shabbat special times.
Chag sameach and Shabbat shalom,