Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
You Might Not Always Be Correct But Might Not Also Always be Wrong
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSaturday, February 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
“When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years; in the seventh year he shall go free without payment.” (Exodus 21:2)
“But if the slave declares, ‘I love my master…I do not wish to go free,’ his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and then he shall remain a slave for life.” (Exodus 21:5-6)
Sometimes we think we know what is best for others. Sometimes we are prepared to let others determine our fate without our input. We conjecture about how our children, our parents, our siblings should live their lives. In the work place, we believe we know best how our employees, even our employers, should perform their jobs. And at the other end of the spectrum, some of us are willing to relinquish all control. We show up, but are prepared to let others determine our fate. This applies to our society as well.
The Torah carefully places the two statements regarding the slave side by side in order to instruct us of the importance of self-determination and moral imperative. We often get ourselves into a groove and it becomes comfortable. We find ourselves angry and that becomes who we are. We find ourselves depressed and we make no effort to change. We find ourselves discouraged and rather than finding a path towards hopeful living we choose to just stay the way we are. And the same is true of the wrongs we commit.
We must not remain enslaved ourselves either. Often others are able to forgive us more readily than we are able to forgive ourselves. Just as we forgive others we must also learn to forgive ourselves. There are moments when freedom becomes possible; if we choose not to seize those moments we may remain enslaved indefinitely.
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This Is Not How I Remember It
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, February 16, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. (Exodus 19:4)
Often I tell you stories about my family; however, when my children are in shul and hear me tell the story they often remark, "That is not how we remember it." Confidently, I insist that is actually how the events unfolded. More determined, they correct my version. More important to them are the details, while I insist the point of the story is the same no matter the individual specifics.
I imagine, when God turns to the children of Israel and says, " How I bore you on eagles' wings," the response was, "That is not how I remember it. The exodus wasn't that easy." Maybe for God it was. Maybe God wanted the people to remember it fondly. Maybe in comparison to the challenges they would face in the future, it actually was. However, I still imagine, at that moment the collective memory of our people was that the initial foray was hard. To characterize it as anything but that, minimizes the challenges of that moment.
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Trustworthy People, Trust
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, February 9, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
And God said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day's portion- that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not." (Exodus 16:4)
In every relationship there is testing. Parents and children, spouse, employers and employees, friendships all have moments when they test each other. Usually the testing begins early in the relationship and then fades away as confidence each grows stronger. However, sometimes the testing never dissipates. When that happens, is it because one has trouble trusting? Is it because the other continues to show a lack of trustworthiness?
In the early stage of the relationship between God and the Jewish people, God tests them. Although this test shows that God will continue to care for them, God will continue to test them and they God. The relationship between the Jewish people and God continues to undergo challenges, most stemming from the fact that the Jewish people continue to be less that trustworthy. However, God never gives up on them.
While trust may be a litmus test for a relationship, its absence sometimes has nothing to do with the other person.
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