Weekly Torah Commentary – Pesach March 30, 2018

The Passover festival begins at sundown this Friday, March 30 and continues for the next seven days.  As it coincides this year with Shabbat, the readings for Passover take the place of the normal Shabbat schedule of readings.

Torah reading: Exodus 12: 21-51

Haftorah reading:  Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2 – 6:1, 6:27

SederPlate

Passover is our festival of freedom, liberation, deliverance and release. We became free people, no longer enslaved to our Egyptian masters.  We celebrate it with enthusiasm and joy and remind ourselves and our families that spiritual freedom is not a matter of geography but of inner liberation, something that every human being needs.  All manner of things can enslave us: fear, worry, addictions, relationships and more but Pesach proclaims that freedom is available!

Being enslaved is a two-edged sword. There is the physical circumstance of slavery—the torturous existence of being subjected daily to the merciless demands of a tyrannical superior. But internal psychological slavery is far worse.  It binds up and at times paralyzes its victim mentally and emotionally.

The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim. It means limitations, which we all have to certain degrees. For some, that may mean severe financial problems; for others, it could be serious health challenges. And for still others, it may be the burden of an abusive psychological environment. These are circumstances that can make us feel like slaves or prisoners.

But what about our internal shackles?  Though we may have experienced freedom from certain things that held us bound in the past, perhaps there are still others which trouble us; things like fear of what other people think, traumatic events or even our own inability to forgive those who have offended us.  Unforgiveness and bitterness, in fact, are two of the most enslaving emotions known to man.

Take the example of a woman in an abusive marriage who files for divorce.  There may be a real sense of relief when she no longer has to live with the abusive spouse but is she just as free in her soul from the damaging effects of that relationship?

When the children of Israel left Egypt, we know they were at times tempted to want to return. They complained, they griped and they moaned against Moses and against God.  The question comes to mind: Did ‘Pharaoh’ go with them?

Oh, surely they left Pharaoh behind in Egypt, but was he still having an effect over their lives?  The answer is, of course, yes!  He continued to have full control over their psyche.

On the seventh day of Passover, we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea. The behavior of the children of Israel on that day reveals that though God had delivered them by means of amazing and powerful miracles, they still feared Egypt’s might and power.  They panicked as Pharaoh’s army approached in the distance. It was only after the sea split—and they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore—that they finally experienced complete deliverance, not just physically but psychologically as well.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as free when we’ve overcome some difficult circumstance or limitation. We may be shocked, however, to discover that “Pharaoh” still pursues us even after we’ve escaped his Egypt. But the abuser closing in on us is the “Pharaoh” we’ve allowed to come with us in our thought life.  I’m reminded of the saying you’ve probably heard, ‘It took a day to get Israel out of Egypt but forty years in the desert to get Egypt out of Israel.

So how do we eradicate these demons from our inner world? How do we live free of the personal Egypt within ourselves?

By asking God to split open our inner sea of fears, anxieties, worries, cares and addictions.

To split the Red sea, G‑d “turned the sea into dry land.” Deep beneath the surface of our lives is the power and grace of God which keeps us alive day after day.  To transform the sea into dry land means to reveal that neither we, nor our world, are separate from God; that He alone has full control over our lives and knows what’s best for us; that He cares for us lovingly and leads us perfectly.

In Tune with Torah this week = Passover is a wonderful opportunity to ask God for total freedom from whatever troubles you.  If you are plagued with worry and fear, ask Him for a new and deep understanding of His love for you – the love that drives out fear.  If addiction of one sort or another is the problem, He IS the great deliverer.  He is more than willing to set you free.

Sometimes we don’t even realize we have a “pharaoh” in our life but most of us do. Passover is the perfect time to “send him back to Egypt” so that we can move on to our Promised Land unhindered.

A blessed Passover season to you and shabbat shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Passover Sabbath – April 14, 2017

Torah reading: Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

Haftorah reading:  Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Can these bones live?  (vs. 3)

drybones

That is the question which the Spirit of the Lord asked Ezekiel in his famous vision of the valley of dry bones.

The Spirit of the Lord set Ezekiel down into a valley filled with bones that were ‘very dry’. The prophet experienced this vision after God had directed him to prophesy the rebirth of Israel in chapter 36. God announced, through the prophet, that Israel will be restored to her land in blessing under the leadership of “David, My servant [who] shall be king over them”  clearly a reference to the future Messiah, descendant of David. However, this promise seemed impossible.  At that time, Israel was “dead” as a nation, deprived of her land, her king, and her temple. She had been divided and dispersed for so long that unification and restoration seemed utterly impossible. So God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones as a sign to reinforce the promise.

God directed Ezekiel to speak to the bones. Ezekiel was to tell the bones that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life, just as in the creation of man when He breathed life into Adam. Ezekiel obeyed, the bones came together, flesh developed, skin covered the flesh, breath entered the bodies, and they stood up in a vast army.

This vision symbolized the whole house of Israel then in captivity. Like unburied skeletons, the people were in a state of living death, pining away with no end to their judgment in sight. They thought their hope was gone and they were cut off forever. The surviving Israelites felt their national hopes had been dashed and the nation had died in the flames of Babylon’s attack with no hope of resurrection.

The reviving of the dry bones signified God’s plan for Israel’s future national restoration. The vision also, and most importantly, showed that Israel’s new life depended on God’s power and not the cleverness of the people. Putting “breath” by God’s Spirit into the bones showed that God would not only restore them physically but also spiritually.

As with all of scripture, there is always more than the simple meaning. We understand the promise to Israel but we also derive personal encouragement and hope from this passage.

Typically in the scripture, valleys are places of hardship or trial.  The verse from Psalm 23 comes to mind, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me.  The implication is that walking through a valley could be a fearful thing but we are assured that the LORD is with us, even then.

When we go through valleys in our life, sometimes dreams die. Sometimes our hope dies, our faith dies. Sometimes promises die. Sometimes circumstances happen tragically, things just go wrong in our life. Sometimes things are out of our control and sometimes they are in our control, but regardless of whether they are in or out of our control, we are assured that whatever has been lost in those valleys and wherever there has been trauma or grief or sorrow and death, it is the LORD and He alone who can breathe on the dry bones and restore life.

Is there a dream, a hope, a goal you’ve had that seems at present utterly impossible? Has an important relationship gone wrong?  Have you suddenly lost a job? Or has someone you love been diagnosed with a life threatening disease?

Any of these could be seen as a ‘valley experience’ in our life. Maybe your dream has been dead so long that it’s like the bones Ezekiel saw: very dry.

This Haftorah gives us resounding hope and divine reassurance of redemptive restoration, no matter what lies dead in your valley.

In tune with Torah this week = The festival of Passover is a wonderful time to re-visit old dreams and desires, to bring them before the LORD in prayer and listen for His word of hope.  For the same God who transported Ezekiel into that valley is the God who hears your hearts’ desires today.

Shabbat shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayakhel-Pekudei March 24, 2017

Torah Reading: Exodus 35-40
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18

In this week’s Haftorah portion we find the commandment of Passover reiterated by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel.

In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. Ezekiel 45:21

Pesach2

This year Passover begins on April 11th and ends on April 18th. Most households here in Israel are already in the throes of preparation. One’s entire home is cleaned until it’s spotless; menus for the seven days are planned and except for perishables, the shopping has already started; and invitations to one’s Seder meal have already been dispatched. It’s an exceedingly busy time, especially in Israel.

But beyond all that, what is most important about Passover is what we remember and what we look forward to. Like all the Biblical festivals, Passover is past, present and future.  It speaks of our past deliverance, our present determination and our future destiny.

Passover conveys five major concepts that serve every generation well. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. They are: history, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.

1) History or Memory: It has been said that the idea of history originated with the Hebrews going all the way back to Abraham.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.”

To record and remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

2) Optimism: The most difficult task Moses had to perform was not to get the Jews out of Egypt, but to get Egypt out of the Jews. They had become so acclimated to their status as slaves, they lost all hope that they could ever be free. Hope creates optimism and the hope they held onto originated in the covenant of God with Abraham.

The true miracle of Passover is the message that with God’s help, no difficulty is insurmountable. A tyrant like Pharaoh could be overthrown. A nation as powerful as Egypt could be defeated. Slaves could be free. The oppressed could break the shackles of their captivity. Anything is possible, if only we dare to dream the impossible dream. That hope is, someone has said, in the DNA of the Jew. I hope it’s in yours as well!

3) Faith: The very foundation of Judaism and the Jewish people is FAITH. That is the legacy which our father Abraham bequeathed to us. Some four hundred and thirty years before the Torah was given, FAITH in a personal God was planted firmly into the Abrahamic line of descendants, into their spiritual heritage.

The God of Sinai didn’t say “I am the Lord your God who created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, he announced, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” The God of creation could theoretically have forsaken the world once he completed his task. The God of the Exodus is constantly involved in our history and has an unshakeable commitment to our survival.

4) Family: The importance of family cannot be overstated. God built his nation not by commanding not a collective gathering of hundreds of thousands in a public square but by asking Jews to turn their homes into places of family worship at a Seder devoted primarily to answering the questions of children. The home is where we first form our identities and discover our values. No wonder then that commentators point out the very first letter of the Torah is a bet, the letter whose meaning is house. All of the Torah follows only after we understand the primacy of family.

5) Responsibility: Passover reminds us that no man is an island. We are responsible first for ourselves, yes; but also for family, friends and society.
As we celebrate the great deliverance from slavery, some may ask why were we enslaved to begin with? Why did God allow that?

The Torah and the Prophets tell us that we were slaves in Egypt – and so we must have empathy for the downtrodden in every generation. We were slaves in Egypt – so we must be concerned with the rights of the strangers, the homeless and the impoverished. We experienced oppression – and so we must understand more than anyone else the pain of the oppressed.

The purpose of our suffering was to turn us into a people committed to righting the wrongs of the world, to become partners with God in preparing the world to become the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom to be ruled by the Messiah.

In Tune with Torah this week = From earliest childhood every Jew child learns to embrace these five ideals: history (memory), optimism, faith, family and responsibility. These are not just ideals for the Jewish people but for all nations and all peoples. As we prepare for Passover let us ponder these truths and renew our personal commitment to all that they represent.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – April 22, 2016 PASSOVER

We have an unusual situation this Shabbat. Friday night at sundown, not only does the Sabbath begin, but also the week long Festival of Passover.  Therefore the regular Torah cycle of readings is suspended until after Passover is completed.

Pesach

The readings for this week are Exodus 12:21-51, Numbers 28:16-25 and Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2 – 6:1, 6:27.  I encourage you to read them at your leisure.

Here in Israel, our people have been super busy, cleaning all the leaven out of their homes and preparing for the Seder (festive meal) Friday evening.  What is it about Passover that is so special that an entire nation prepares diligently, even feverishly, for it each year?

Early in the Torah, God defines himself by the event commemorated each year at Passover: At the beginning of the ten commandments he introduces himself like this: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”. 

Previously He called Himself “The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob”, or “I AM” but beginning at this point He is “The One who brought you out of Egypt” and that self-description is repeated throughout the Hebrew Bible literally hundreds of times.

Many of the Psalms refer to the Passover miracle and though many Jewish people consider Mt. Sinai as the defining moment, perhaps God sees the Passover as the cornerstone of the Israel story.  Passover was the moment in history when the Jewish race became the Jewish faith.

Our God is all about freedom; human choice is at the heart of the unfolding deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Even though God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, that only happened after some serious choices on Pharaoh’s part to harden his own heart first. God just confirmed his free choice.

The children of Israel also had to choose whether to go along with God’s plan or not. They were not rescued from the Angel of Death by force – He gave them an “opt in” clause: to have death pass over your house, you must sacrifice a lamb and dab its blood on your door frame. This act of faith constituted the individual’s response to a command of God which carried a promise with it.  All who believed it was true and acted accordingly were saved. That means that those who escaped from Egypt freely chose to obey God and follow him by faith – not just because of their national ancestry. This is the moment that the people of Israel became a faith community.

As we mentioned, the ten commandments are introduced by God’s reminder that he loves to set slaves free, and the very first command when he subsequently lays down the rest of the Torah is this: “These are the laws you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.” (Exodus 21:1-2). What a strange subject with which to start a new code of government, spiritual life and ethics! But God is determined that his people should not be in slavery – they should be free. This is the message of passover. That is what the exodus was all about. God is serious about making his people free.

Remembering is very important to God. The Bible frequently urges us to do just that: “Remember”.  If we remember what God has done, what He has said and who He is, we our faith in Him is energized and our trust solidifies.

The Passover Seder meal is a festive, teaching, and remembering experience, instituted by God himself, in order to prevent us from forgetting His amazing power and faithfulness. Today the family celebration is based around four cups of wine and a “haggadah” or “telling” which is like an order of service. There are different ideas about what each of the four cups represents, but generally the first cup is about being set apart for God, the second is the time to tell the story, the third is after the meal, when Jewish people usually give thanks for their food, and the last one is “hallel” or praise, during which the psalms of thanksgiving are recited.

Each item of food on the table symbolizes something in the story  and each aspect of the evening helps the Jewish people to remember the miracles God did for them and even to re-live them. It is as if we ourselves were delivered from the oppression of Pharoah.

The ultimate purpose of the Seder is to re-awaken and strengthen relationship. God wants intimacy with his people. God looks back at that time right after the exodus as something of a honeymoon with his people:

“This is what the LORD says:“‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest”. Jeremiah 2:1-3

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15

Someone once said “a dessert is something you want and don’t need, but the desert is something you don’t want, but you do need”.  We all experience ‘desert’ times in our spiritual life but it’s often during those times that our relationship with God deepends. One day ultimate rest will be ours but until then, life with God is not always going to be a walk in the park.

Passover is the time to draw closer to the One who delivers, saves and redeems.  We are with him, and he is with us. We are his people, and he is our God. The joy of relationship with Him is our strength and our song.

It is also a time to look to the future. “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” Jeremiah 16:14-16 .

The story of God and the children of Israel is not over yet. God has indeed brought the Israelites out from the land of the north (Russia and surrounding area) and thousands have come to live in Israel from countries around the globe.  Many do not yet attribute this phenomenon to God but the days are coming when they will know it is truly His doing.

Meanwhile, we celebrate the Passover past and look forward to the future ‘Passover’ when we will transition from life as we know it to the promised manifestation of the restored Kingdom of God on this earth.  May it come quickly, even in our day!

A blessed Passover to all my readers – and Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary — Passover & the Omer April 10, 2015

As we are coming to the end of this year’s Passover celebration, the regular reading of the Torah portions is not resumed until next week.  So, let’s look at a relevant topic in which the Jewish people are involved at present.

From the second day of Passover, we are commanded to “count the omer.” 

You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… -Leviticus 23:15-16

You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu’ot for the LORD, your God. -Deuteronomy 16:9-10

So what is this all about?

We are counting the days between the first day of Passover – when the Exodus from Egypt took place – to the festival of Shavuot or Pentecost, when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai. The practice is designed to remind us that the deliverance from Egypt had as its great purpose to lead the former slaves to a life-changing encounter with God Himself on Mt. Sinai, where they were gifted with His instructions for achieving a life of holiness. Counting the omer is a means to keep forefront in our mind the truth that the redemption from Egypt was not only about ‘going out’. More importantly, it was about ‘coming in’ to an intimate relationship with God Himself.

As there is no Temple today where an omer of grain can be waved before the God of Israel, as we count each day and recite a blessing that accompanies the counting, our anticipation increases, much as a bride counts the days until her wedding. A love for and desire to receive the Word of the Living God is stirred within us as we anticipate Shavuot.

It is a period of inner reflection. How much do I love the Word of God? How often do I read it? Meditate on it? If I review my activities over the past month, the past three months, the past six months, did I spend more time reading other books, newspapers and magazines than I devoted to thoughtful reading of the Scriptures?

Psalm 119 is full of exhortations towards reading and meditating on God’s Word. For example, “Deal bountifully with Your servant that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your Torah. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.”

And, “Oh, how I love Your Torah! It is my meditation all day long. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies.”

And again, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.”

And one of my favorites: “Those who love Your Word have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

Indeed, taking Psalm 119 as a guide for prayer and meditation would keep one going for several weeks, even months.

What countless ills in our modern society stem from a marginalizing of God’s Word in our society? How many personal and family issues could be resolved in a godly way by each individual applying the teachings of Scripture in humility and faithfulness?

Counting the Omer is a season of weeks in which we are called to remember that though heaven and earth pass away, the revelation of the Living God, His inestimable Words of truth and light, will never, ever pass away.

In Tune with Torah this week = take a fresh look at the Scriptures, approaching them as if you were receiving this gift for the very first time. Ask God to open your mind to His revelation, to grant you understanding and the accompanying grace to put into practice all that you learn from these sacred pages.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary — Passover April 3-4, 2015

Exodus 12: 21-51

As Passover this year falls on Shabbat, the regular Torah reading cycle is interrupted to accommodate the passages from the book of Exodus describing the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves under the leadership of Moses.  After repeated pleas by Moses to Pharaoh, ‘Let My people go!’ the ruler of Egypt finally relented after the final plague, the deaths of the firstborn of every household in Egypt. A nation of slaves became free men – literally overnight. Their hard labor was over.  Never again would they suffer the whippings of the taskmasters, the taunts of their supervisors.

Freedom from hard labor and physical bondage can be won in a day but attaining inner freedom is a lifetime journey all of us make.  Shackles can be removed from wrists and ankles but what of the mental and emotional shackles?

The story of the Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land is that of life itself.  With freedom comes responsibility.  The children of Israel soon learned that their exit from Egypt gifted them with choices previously unavailable. But that very freedom carried consequences, as every decision does.

They learned that freedom doesn’t mean you can do anything you want; it means you are free to choose what is right and honorable. Excuses and rationalizations for doing otherwise have been eliminated.

They learned that freedom doesn’t provide the opportunity to indulge every self-serving whim but the privileged position to serve others in kindness and humility.

The freedom given to the Hebrew slaves was not an end in itself; it was the pathway to become what they were called to become: a holy nation, a chosen people, a treasure to the Most High.  Growing into that destiny meant daily repeated choices to obey God’s voice and follow His instructions.  As slaves they were required to obey the injunctions of brutal foremen who never hesitated to beat them into subjection if necessary.  As free men, they were called to obey the life-giving principles of a loving God, who was also their Father and their King. The truth is that obedience to God and His Word is the highest form of freedom man can enjoy.

To this day, men still struggle with the idea of freedom.  The lazy man prefers bondage for it demands no personal responsibility.  Yet God did not fashion us for captivity, but for freedom.

Passover is a good time for a spiritual ‘check up from the neck up’ because the main obstacle to our spiritual freedom is our mind; the world of our thoughts.  It’s no wonder that Solomon wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

How free are you inside? In your inner being?

Are you free of the fear of what other people think?  (Or what you think they think?)

Are you free of negativity, complaining and griping?

Are you free of gossip and slander?

Are you free of greed, jealousy and envy?

The Holy One of Israel set us free, not that we should enslave ourselves all over again, but that we should live productive, loving and meaningful lives.

In Tune with Torah this week = during this major biblical holiday, take some time to have that ‘check up from the neck up’ and purpose to embrace the godly freedom that will propel you forward in your journey towards holiness.

May each of you be blessed in abundance this Passover week.  Let all of the ‘leaven of this world’ be eliminated and embrace with passion the purpose and destiny of your soul.

Shabbat Shalom and a wonderful Passover week to you all!

Weekly Torah Commentary — Acharei Mot April 11, 2014

Shabbat HaGadol

The Shabbat immediately prior to Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat. How it came to be called that is a topic of discussion. One opinion is that it is because of the Haftorah read this week which refers to a day in the future which will be “great” – the day of the re-establishment of God’s Kingdom on this earth, as described in Malachi 3.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. (Malachi 3:23)

The prophet speaks of the day of redemption in the future. Passover, which represents the day of redemption of antiquity, serves as the model for the future redemption of the children of Israel.

This Shabbat in Egypt was different from all other previous Shabbatot. This time, man joined God in His holy day. Ironically, the mode of observance was not “resting” as we think of it in the context of today’s Shabbat. Historically, the Shabbat before Pesach was the day when the children of Israel were commanded to take to themselves a lamb, a symbolic action that stood in opposition to the lamb-worshiping Egyptians.

The Sages note that by taking the lamb the Jews observed Shabbat in Egypt as never before. This was their first Shabbat as a people, a moment of passage in the national sense: They had reached the age of majority, became adult (“gedolim”), with responsibilities. This was Shabbat “HaGadol”. The most basic teaching of Shabbat is the acknowledgement that God created the world in six days. By taking the lamb the Jews rejected idolatry and accepted God. This was not merely an action which took place on the tenth of Nissan. This was a watershed of Jewish history. Now the Jews joined God in a Shabbat.

The Talmud teaches that one who desecrates Shabbat is guilty of idolatry, for he has rejected the works of God. Now we see that those who rejected idolatry were viewed as “Shabbat observers.” Moreover, in taking the lamb, they kept their only Shabbat commandment. This “perfect track record” made it a truly great Shabbat.13

Our sages teach us that if all of Israel fully observe just two Shabbatot the Messiah would appear.

Interestingly, according to the mainstream Jewish approach the world was created in Nissan, which means that the Shabbat which takes place around the 10th of the month was the second Shabbat in the history of the world. Had those two Shabbatot been kept properly the world would have been redeemed back then.

In particular, the two Shabbatot which must be observed are Shabbat Hagadol and Shabbt Shuva. Each of these Shabbatot have a special power to them: One falls between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, it is a Shabbat which teaches man how to return to God. The other Shabbat is the first Shabbat observed in Egypt, the one we are about to celebrate. It is a Shabbat which contains within it the secret of redemption.

If man could master these two Shabbatot, the Messiah would quickly arrive. Would that it would be this year.

Torah reading this week is Acharie Mot found in Leviticus 16-18

Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the High Priest cast lots to designate two goats — one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the High Priest confessed the sins of the people upon its head.

The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people — when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!

Yom Kippur atones for transgressions between man and the Almighty. However, Yom Kippur only atones for transgressions between man and man if a person first attains the forgiveness of those whom he has offended or harmed.

While our main reason not to hurt others should be out of compassion and caring, we learn from here that we should be careful not to hurt others out of our own self interests — the embarrassment of having to ask others for forgiveness and the possibility that they won’t or can’t forgive you.

In Tune with Torah this week = as we prepare to celebrate the Festival of our Redemption, past and future, let us examine our relationships and make sure that we have no ‘unfinished business’ in that area. If we need to ask forgiveness for some offense, let’s do it from the heart. If we need to forgive someone else, likewise let’s forgive freely as God forgives us.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach!!! (A blessed Passover)