This week’s portion, Bo, begins with Exodus chapter 10. We come again to the dialogues between Moses, Aaron and Pharoah. We encounter the final plagues. It is a disturbing, frustrating portion that raises so many questions. There is an interesting conversation right at the start fo the portion. Moses and Aaron confront Pharoah and it seems, for just a moment, that Pharoah relents. “Go worship the Lord your God! Who is going?” (10:8). The answer was: We will go, our young and our old, with our sons and daughters” (10:9) There are many comments on this, as I am sure you can imagine. Yet, again, the Torah seems to speak to us from its’ antiquity, with a modern voice. Young and old , sons and daughters? The community, all generations needs to participate in this act of freedom. The young need the elders for memory and role-modeling, a sense of history and security; while the young represent tomorrow, but a tomorrow without a sense of history may well become anarchy.
I think we see in this “young and old” phrase another message that resonates for us today. In reading this for this week’s Dvar Torah, I was struck with a sense of the message of the need for community. Then, I watched the news and was struck again of how the text is so meaningful. Without a sense of community, a sense of interdependence and mutuality, we regress into tribalism, or to channel some current management or leadership speak: silos. Take a look at modern America and our divisions and you can see this at work every day in so many ways.
Tom Friedman writes of this need for community and its healing and restorative and creative powers in his latest book “Thank You For Being Late”. He writes of the current “age of acceleration” and the fact that a “healthy community” allows people to feel protected, connected and respected. The underlying value of this is a sense of trust; even if there may be disagreement on issues, there is a sense of trust among people. “But trust cannot be commanded., writes Friedman, “It can only be nurtured and inspired by a healthy community–between people who feel bound by a social contract.” (p. 359, 360)
Our young and our old, our sons and our daughters: our community. Healthy communities build healthy societies and in doing so can escape the plagues of darkness, ignorance and mistrust. Once again, Torah can give us an insight into the depths of our own souls and show us a way to freedom. IF we but choose to follow.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.