I keep an email folder on each and every weekly Torah portion, collecting wisdom and commentary from a wide variety of published sources. Since I am a firm believer in Judaism’s emphasis on reading and listening over writing and speaking, I consult my teachers and colleagues to see what texts and ideas inspire them.
For instance, for this Shabbat Vaera, I read Rabbi Mitchell Silverstein’s analysis of the haftarah from Ezekiel, in which the prophet condemns foolish alliances. “For Ezekiel, this lack of realism was sinful and a betrayal of God. His prophecy should remind us to be careful of this sort of idolatry” (Conservative Yeshiva Haftarah Commentary, 5776).
I also watched a short video by Dr. Tamar Kadari, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, who taught a midrash about the staff Moshe used to initiate the plagues. Comparing the Torah’s story to Harry Potter, Dr. Kadari taught the rabbinic tradition that the list of the plagues was engraved on his staff, an elaborate cheat sheet so that Moshe can remember which plague is to come next. This, says Dr. Kadari, shows that the plagues were not at all random, but were part of a well-considered Divine plan (Schechter Institute Weekly Parashah message, 5780).
And, reaching deeper into my files, I found a drash by Rabbi Michael Graetz, who for many years served as the rabbi of the Masorti kehillah in Omer, just outside of Beer Sheva. Rabbi Graetz’s commentary, which is among the best I’ve ever seen, once delved into Pharaoh’s obstinant refusal to release the Israelites. Even though Pharaoh admitted his guilt (Exodus 9:27), he then changed his mind and “continued to sin” (9:28). “No human being should be so obsessive about their own vision of how the world should be, that is, so obsessive that even disaster after disaster can not move them to be flexible in their views” (Rabbi Michael Graetz, Vaera 5765).
Why do I share these three unconnected thoughts on the Torah portion? In fact, there is a strong thread that runs through all of these teachings, and they actually can inspire each and every one of us to meangingful action. On Shabbat morning, I’ll explain how.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise