Torah Reflections: Conversations on the Weekly Parshah
Integrating Torah into one’s life through reflection and conversation can be an incredibly fun and engaging experience. It’s a journey of discovery, where ancient wisdom and timeless teachings come to life in our daily experiences. Through reflection, we have the opportunity to dive deep into the rich tapestry of Torah, extracting profound insights and lessons that resonate with our modern lives. The joy lies in the ‘aha’ moments, those instances when a Torah verse or story suddenly connects with our personal challenges, aspirations, and values. And when we engage in conversations about Torah with others, it becomes an interactive exploration, where diverse perspectives and interpretations enhance our understanding. These dialogues often spark excitement and intellectual curiosity, making the learning process both enjoyable and fulfilling. Torah becomes a vibrant and dynamic part of our lives, offering not just guidance but also a source of endless fascination, connection, and growth.
NOTE: Don’t feel obligated to go through every source or answer all the questions—unless you want to. Even one source, or one question will give you plenty of material for discussion and meditation. Enjoy this!
Some thoughts from the parsha
In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites, after experiencing Divine wonders and the plague of the death of the firstborn, are now expelled from Egypt. As they leave, they request and receive the wealth of the Egyptians, according to G-d’s command. Meanwhile, Moses seeks out the bones of Joseph, a righteous figure representing the Divine Attribute of Yesod, connecting the lower world with G-d. Yesod is related to the concept of tzaddikim, righteous individuals who act as facilitators between G-d and creation. Moses, despite himself being the leader of the Jewish people, demonstrates the importance of connecting to a tzaddik; the act of exhuming Joseph’s bones was a beloved mitzvah for Moses. The Jews’ taking of Egyptian wealth is explained as fulfilling G-d’s commandment and rectifying the lack of compensation for their 210 years of slave labor. These seem to be separate ideas, but on a mystical level, the concepts of “emptying out Egypt” and “bones of Joseph” are linked, highlighting the dual nature of wealth and its rectification through charity (tzedaka), which reveals G-d’s beneficence. This contrasts with Egyptian kings who succeeded Joseph, as Joseph compassionately sustained people through famine while later rulers, who “knew not Joseph”, cruelly enslaved the Israelites.
Questions for discussion and personal reflection
- When you faced tough times, did you ever feel a shift where recognizing something greater became important for getting through it?
- In your own leadership or influential roles, have you thought about seeking advice from people who act with goodness or have what you regard to be a greater spiritual connection?
- Can you remember times when doing the right thing felt like fixing a long-standing problem in your life?
- Regarding your experiences with money or possessions, what’s your view on giving to others in need to make things fair and show kindness?
- Think about times of having little or a lot. How do these moments connect with the idea that money can be good or bad? Have you ever felt close to something bigger during these times?
By Rabbi Tani Burton
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