[JOI Word of Torah] Big Tent Judaism: Shemot
Kerry M. Olitzky
kolitzky at joi.org
Thu Dec 27 19:11:13 GMT 2007
"Big Tent Judaism" Word of Torah
December 29, 2007 / 20 Tevet, 5768
This portion details a pivotal moment (or a series of pivotal moments that
are tied together) in the history of the Jewish people. While it begins with
Egyptian slavery (and explains how the Israelites landed in that state of
affairs), it includes the launch of the ancient Israelites on their desert
journey of 40 years during which time its identity as a people was forged.
It is this collective memory that is embedded in the psyche of the
individual Jew and what often makes it so hard for those on the outside of
the community to enter.
It is the language of memory that often separates the outsider from the
insider although it is often camouflaged simply as vocabulary or a form of
cultural literacy. As it has been said, Jews are not a people with history;
rather they are a people with memory. And our lives are woven into the
tapestry of this collective memory each day that we live our lives within
the context of Jewish community.
Early in the journey God reveals the Torah to the Jewish people, epitomized
in this portion as the Ten Commandments (or ten utterances which is a more
honest translation of the Hebrew). One might have expected that the giving
of Torah would be later, a culmination event, or perhaps a reward for making
it through the desert, just before entry into the Promised Land. Perhaps it
comes early to teach us that it is accessible to all, early on, regardless
of where in the process of journey is each individual (and we are all on
different places in our own journeys). It comes early to make it available
to the largest group of people, the mixed multitude that joined the
Israelites as they left Egypt behind. It comes early to demonstrate that it
is indeed accessible to all those who would seek to drink from its
life-giving waters and be satiated as a result.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the author of many inspiring books that bring the
Jewish wisdom tradition into everyday life, and is, among other books, the
author of Introducing My Faith and My Community: The Jewish Outreach
Institute Guide for the Christian in a Jewish Interfaith Relationship
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You are welcome to use these ideas in your own work and writings as long as
you would be so kind as to credit Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and the Jewish
Outreach Institute, thank you.
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