Firstly, I want to thank Nicole Goodman for her amazing work with the cohort that was here last week for our Elaine Breslow Institute (EBI). Nicole was her usual cheerful and kind self and made the week, which took a lot of time and planning, a joy for all of our participants and for the staff and residents who were the teachers. Nicole always says Hineni when called upon and I am so grateful!!
I am also grateful for the opportunity of leading our Elaine Breslow Institute. Working with the staff and residents here to pass along Addiction Recovery training and Relevant Judaism is an honor and pleasure. Thanks to the Board of Directors for entrusting me with this Holy Work and thank you to Elaine Breslow, z"l, who inspired this idea. Thanks also to Warren Breslow for helping to birth our Institute and to Dr. Garrett O'Connor, z"l, for his guidance and brilliance.
This week's Parasha is Yitro. This is the name of Moses' father-in-law. Yitro teaches Moses about respecting the dignity of another when you are in power. This is an important lesson for all people.
I want to focus on Chapter 19 of Exodus, this year. It begins with a recounting of the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word for encampment is used in two different forms, singular, and plural. While we can see the reason according to grammar, Rashi, the most famous commentator on the Torah, says it connotes that the plural is used to show that people were encamped in their own worlds and, while part of the whole, were still separate from everyone. The second use, the singular, is to show that the People Israel were united and unified. I understand Rashi's reasoning by what follows next. God speaks to Moses and says: As you hear, listen and understand my voice and guard, care for and protect our Covenant... (my translation). The people were unified and united in making a Covenant with God. They were unified and united in hearing, listening and understanding God's Call. How are you united and unified with family, friends, community and yourself in hearing God's Call? What is the Covenant(s) you have made with God, family, and Community? How are you guarding and protecting your part of the Covenant(s)?
I am so overwhelmed by this understanding this year because I see how we get splintered by listening to the voices and calls of people who are not seeking unification through God's Call and God's Covenant with Israel at Sinai. I realize how often I get defensive and offensive at the words of others and stand against these words rather than standing for the Covenant of God and the Call of God's voice! I am ashamed and guilty. I am so deeply remorseful for these actions. As I sit here writing and realizing how split I have been from my own soul and the ways I have split myself off from others, I am in deep pain. Yet, I have to face the truth of my actions without hiding. Otherwise, I cannot fulfill another verse in this chapter, to "be a nation of Priests, a Holy Nation". I also see what my T'Shuvah is. I commit to not stand against another, rather I will stand up for God, Covenant, and Holiness. I have to do this in order to be united with God and everyone in searching for all the ways to fulfill the Call of God and our Covenant with God. I have to remember that all of us were at Sinai and we all heard the Call of God in our unique way and only by all of us connecting with the Call we heard, the Call of our Soul, can we become united and unified to fulfill the words of the Sh'ma, Adonai Ehad, we are part of the Oneness that is God through our uniting our unique Call with the unique Calls of everyone else.