Thursday, December 27, 2007

Discord and Dialogue (Shemot)

Regular contributor Casseopia drops knowledge like she's got enough to lose. Check her latest post below:

This week, we begin the book of Exodus with Parshat Shemot. A lot happens in this Parsha, including the entire first half of Cecil B. DeMille's movie: from the Hebrew slaves being put to task building Pithom and Ramses to Moses’s marriage to Tzipporah in the desert of Midian. This is the Parsha where it all goes down – Moses meets God for the first time at the burning bush, and he begins his life’s work of bringing the Jewish people to Israel.

The story of Exodus is an epic tale of oppression, revolution, and freedom. This story is so crucial to the Jewish faith that we tell it three times during the year – once in shul, as read from the Torah, and once at each of the two sedorot (Passover meals) as we read from the Haggadah. Why is this story so important to us? What does this story reveal about Judaism and how does it apply to the way we practice Judaism today?

My experience as a Jew is both spiritual and political. I am frequently called upon to contribute my opinion regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict “as a Jew”, as if my thoughts on the matter are more valid than those of any gentile. I find, ironically, that it is most difficult to express my opinion on the matter because I am Jewish. Is it okay for me to criticize Israel’s actions? Is it kosher to sympathize with the Palestinian people? Can I be a leftist and also be a Zionist?

The Torah (and incidentally, nearly every Israeli I’ve met) answers a resounding: "Yes!" The Torah teaches that we should rise up in the face of an oppressive government, that we should seek out strong leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. It is our heritage to call people out when they do wrong, whether you’re a slave in Egypt (Exodus 2:11-14), or a card-carrying member of the first middle eastern democracy.

Dialogue and discord are encouraged in Judaism. The Torah teaches that it’s okay to struggle, that’s it’s okay to get things wrong. -- the interaction is what has value.

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