Endings can lead to beginnings. Do you remember the ending of the film “Yentel?” Barbara Streisand cross-dresses as “Yentel the Yeshiva Boy” in order to gain an education that was being denied to women and girls. At the end of the movie, Barbara returns to being a woman and boards a boat packed with Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe and sails off to New York in search of a new world with new opportunities. The film concludes with a beginning. So too this week, we conclude the Book of Exodus with a beginning. What is the “Take-home” message of Exodus? Is it the revolution against slavery? Is it the Ten Commandment, the Jewish people’s constitution that has become the legal foundation of Western Civilization?
The concluding lesson of Exodus is found in the name of this week’s double portion “Vayakel-Pekuday,” which means “Gather the people together” and “Take an accounting.” This is the message of “Power to the People.” The Jewish ex-slaves create a society in which every voice and every vote matter. We can only be free from Pharaoh (and other tyrants) if we live by democracy and participate in community.
In two weeks from today the largest Jewish community on the planet heads toward elections. There is a real chance that for the first time in the 72-year history of the State of Israel, there may be a Reform Rabbi in the Israeli Keneset (parliament). Rabbi Gilad Kariv and I taught together at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Today he is number four on the Labor Party list. He has a very real chance of getting into government. I strongly believe that it is good for the health of Israel to have a Reform Jewish voice in the discussions of the government in the world’s largest Jewish community. What happens there affects us. Our fates our intertwined as one Jewish people regardless of geography. “Vayakel-Pekuday,” means join in community and make a difference.
Please join us tonight for Shabbat and please join us in one of our many educational and social actions programs as we prepare to celebrate Passover, liberation then and now.
Rabbi David Wilfond