Monday, April 14, 2014

I Would Slave To Learn The Way To Sink Your Ship Of Fools (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Ship of Fools")

For the past  couple of weeks, I have watched my wife, like many Jewish women who clean for Pesach, who make a Seder (or two)  act as if  they are not only slaves in Egypt but slaves in their respective homes. With a sick cleaning lady, my wife had even more aggravation and cleaning to do than normal, as she scrambled to find some extra help. As time slowly ticked away towards the First Night of Pesach, my wife would look up from what she was cutting, mixing, cooking or cleaning and wonder aloud, “How will this ever get done?” In other moments of anxiety, she would exclaim, “I am so far behind my schedule!”. Yet my wife managed to get everything done.  Granted if we were really slaves in Egypt, I think she, like so many Jewish Women would have been too exhausted to leave! Indeed the first two days of Pesach focus upon our bondage in Egypt and our preparations for Yetzitat Mitzrayim and eventual freedom as symbolized by the Sedarim. However Pesach is an eight festival. Certainly it makes the beginning of the festival should focus upon our national experience of slavery and the immediate moments that led to our ancestors freedom. Once B’nai Yisroel left Egypt and began making their way toward The Reed Sea (The Yam Suf), they were free. They were free to travel, free to worship, and free to serve God. Yet, the process of becoming a free people was still in its nascent stages.
Now we have entered into the intermediate days of Pesach, commonly referred to as Chol Moed. On this Shabbat, Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach, our focus begins to shift from the Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, to B’nai Yisroel’s return to the land that God promise to our Patriarchs. The language has subtly shifted from leaving slavery and entering into freedom to leaving our exile and returning to our covenantal home. We see this in our reading of Shir HaSHirim the Song of Songs. While the text is clearly about the Springtime love of a young man and woman; ChaZaL, our Sages of Blessed Memory, explain that Shir HaSHirim is a Metaphor for this mutually very new and loving relationship between God and B’nai Yisroel. This is a love that has been renewed and this is a love in which both return to each other. Likewise the Haftorah, from the Prophet Ezekiel (37:1-14), also focus upon B’nai Yisroel’s return from Babylonian exile to its covenantal land.
Ezekiel does not focus upon the intensely loving relationship between God and the B’nai Yisroel. However he does focus upon slavery as another form of exile and redemption from exile as the ultimate form of liberation from slavery. Ezekiel lived before and after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash HaRishon, the First Holy Temple. It his here in this Haftorah, that Ezekiel shares with the people his prophesy of the “Dried Bones” that are in the land. Ko Amar Adoshem Elokim L’Atzamot HaEilah  Hinei Ani Mavi Vachem Ruach Vichyitem – Thus say the Eternal God to those bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live (Ez.37:5). From a literal perspective, Ezekiel is prophesying that God will bring these bones, the thousands of Jews that perished in the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, back to life. These bones will experience the ultimate a return from exile; they will return from death to life. However Judaism doesn’t generally subscribe to re-incarnation or a physical life after a physical death. Rather Ezekiel’s prophecy invokes a very powerful symbol. Slavery, in its ultimate and most devastating form is spiritual slavery. Spiritual slavery is a function of being exiled from God, exiled from that fundamentally loving relationship based upon a covenant. When we are exiled from God, when we are spiritually afar from God, we are spiritually lifeless. We are only bones. We are not human. To be human means to be close to God for we are created B’Tzelem Elokimin the image of God.
We all experience spiritual slavery yet our own personal redemption; our moving closer to God’s presence is a direct function of God breathing Ruach HaKodesh – his Holy Spirit into our Neshama. This occurs through Study of Torah. This occurs through prayer. This occurs by engaging in Gemilut Chasadim, by giving Tzedakah, and by Bikur Cholim – visiting the sick. This occurs by making the Jewish community, a more learned, and a more caring community and less enslaved by the greed, selfishness and  arrogance.

Rav Yitz

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