Thursday, January 19, 2012

From years of famine to years of planty

Parshat Vaeira is a familiar story.  Moshe and Aharon stand before Pharaoh and say, "Let my people go!"  They turn sticks to snakes, water to blood, and unleash the fury of God's creations on the land of Egypt.

But someone planted a family tree smack in the middle of the Parshah!  In the second aliya, seemingly out of nowhere, the Torah decides to record Moshe's and Aharon's genealogy.

Why do we have Moshe's family tree listed in the Torah, and why here?

The Torah does not just give us a direct genealogy of Moshe and Aharon.  We read about their uncles and cousins, great uncles, and second cousins.  In the words of Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh:
We are shown the relationship of their tribe with the preceding ones, of their family and house in connection with the families and houses that went before them, and that were contemporary with them.  Further we are told the great age which their father and their grandfather reached so that these could not have been very long dead when Moshe and Aharon took their stand.
And pointing to these two in the midst of this whole circle of cousins and relations, the Torah repeatedly says: "these, these were Moshe and Aharon on the day that they took their stand!"
In the last seven years Beth Israel has had only seven bar and bat mitzvahs.  This week we have a bar mitzvah that is the first of a series of six bar and bat mitzvahs coming up in the next year!  After a seven year famine we are entering the years of plenty.

A bar or bat mitzvah is a celebration for the boy or girl and their family, but it is also an achievement for the shul.  Moshe did not stand alone before Pharaoh.  He stood with his brother and with his community.  And they stood on the shoulders of those who had come before them.

Our bar mitzvah boy also does not stand alone.  Each one of us at Beth Israel stands together proudly watching as he reads his entire parshah and leads the entire service.  And each of us will stand here next week and the week after as he continues to be a leader amongst the youth and a role model that the younger children will aspire to emulate.

In the last few years our shul has accomplished a great deal, but by far our greatest accomplishment is the generation of active, educated, and proud Jewish kids.  Our entire community has contributed to their growth and development.  Those kids will ensure the future of the Jewish community of Omaha and in the world.  For this we should be proud and celebrate!  Mazal Tov!

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