Shemot 5783 – We Shall Overcome

By: Susan Moger

There will not be a dvar Torah today, there will be a dvarette or a dvarala, if you prefer.

Shemot, names. There are many names you will recognize that you will be hearing in a few minutes in today’s Torah Reading.

In exile in Egypt, the Jewish people increased in number from being a family to become a nation. Pharoah, fearing they pose a threat to Egypt, enslaves the Israelites and orders that their male children be killed. Fortunately the Jewish women figured out ways to hide their newborn sons. We all know the story of Moses being found by Pharoah’s daughter in a basket in the water.  Moses is adopted by Pharoah’s daughter and later is chosen to confront Pharoah and lead the people to freedom.

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased, the more they spread.” The worse things get, the stronger we become as Jews. Back in biblical times and even today, Jews not only survive, but thrive in adversity.

This reminds me of the Ukrainian people, today, although not all Jews, they have a Jewish leader, Zelensky, perhaps a modern day Moses. Some Ukrainians fled since the war began, but many are staying to defend their homeland despite atrosities and adversity. Bravo to them.

Shemot is the portion where we read about Moses and the burning bush – it burns but is not consumed. Sadly and happily it reminds me of the news reports from the Ukraine. There is senseless destruction yet the people of the Ukraine are like the burning bush where their resilience is unphased. They remarkably stay strong to do their best, unified, to save their nation and safeguard their citizens.

There are other historic occasions this weekend. This is the 50th anniversary of the death of the  rabbi scholar, and perhaps modern day prophet Abraham Joshua Heschel, his yartzheit, and also the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Heschel presented Martin Luther King the Judaism and World Peace award in 1965. They also were together in the historic march in Selma on March 21, 1965, also along with Rabbi Ofseyer. Heschel later referred to the march as praying with their feet. Also, tomorrow will be the first anniversary of the gunman at the synagogue in nearby Colleyville, such a remarkable story of surviving in the face of terror. Racism and anti-semitism are still splitting people apart by hatred and bigotry. Like the story of the Jewish People in Shemot, we, as Jews, can and do face adversity and thrive.

Please join me to sing a song I learned in my 1970’s Vietnam War protest days, We shall overcome. (We linked arms and swayed singing We Shall Overcome.)

Shabbat Shalom. Peace Out.

(The service ended singing Adom Olam to the tune of We Shall Overcome.)

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