Thursday, January 28, 2016

Yitro: An Aleph and (Still) a Blank Canvas

You know the Ten Commandments? You've heard of them, I assume? Most of us could surely name a few of the laws in there, and we might even know them in order. Perhaps you can list them all. In some ways,
they represent the whole Torah, if not all of Jewish history, including our understanding of law, commandedness, morality, behavior, and ritual. In this week's parashah, God dramatically speaks these Ten Utterances to the Children of Israel; it is THE moment of Revelation with a capital R. But what did God actually SAY? And how do we know? That's right, folks. I'm going super-theological on the blog this week! Take a deep breath, and let's jump in.

Biblical scholars have debated this question for centuries. The most traditional readers of the Torah, of course, tell us the whole thing is the LITERAL word of God. At the other end of the spectrum, some maintain that there is no God
and the Torah is an entirely human composition. I would argue that each of those extreme positions are somewhat easier to hold, and that the real struggle lies in the middle; for those of us who see the Torah as a Divine-human partnership. In the Conservative Movement especially, we frequently ask the question: "What happened at Sinai?" How you answer can dramatically change nearly EVERY aspect of your personal theology. Let me offer one possible response, and briefly demonstrate its potential consequences:

I recently read a Torah commentary written by Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, who was the head of the Jewish Theological Seminary when I began my studies there. Rabbi Schorsch cited a provocative midrash (story
or interpretation) by an 18th Century Chassidic master, Rabbi Mendel of Rymanov, who posited that "All that Israel heard at Sinai was the first letter of the first word of the first Commandment, that is, nothing more than the silent aleph of "Anochi" - "I am (Exodus 20:2)." Rabbi Schorsch explains: "with his daring statement that the actual revelation to Israel consisted only of the aleph, Rabbi Mendel transformed the revelation on Mount Sinai into a mystical revelation, pregnant with infinite meaning, but without specific meaning."

According to this midrash, human beings wrote the actual commandments... but God spoke the first letter to get things started. There's just one problem: Aleph is a silent letter! So what could that possibly have sounded like?!? That, of course, is the beauty of this mystical interpretation. It was the Divine Breath, a still, small wisp of air; but one that inspired the entire Torah, and changed the course of all of human history.
On our last synagogue trip to Israel, we visited a Masorti/Conservative congregation in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Above their Ark they had a representation of the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, just as you can see in many synagogues around the world. Theirs, however, was incredible. Only one letter was inscribed on it - the Aleph - while the rest of the tablet was blank. It was, I believe, an artistic rendering of Rabbi Mendel's fabulous commentary. And to me, it holds a tremendously powerful message: God has given us the start, the initial push, but the rest remains unwritten. We fill in the letters with our actions and our behaviors. All of us, throughout our history, must partner with God and add meaning and content to the tablets of our heritage. It is not for God or even Moses to carve the words or the mitzvot; we must do it ourselves. And there's no time like the present!

Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image courtesy of Ji-Elle on Wikimedia Commons
2. CC image courtesy of Cherubino on Wikimedia Commons
3. The first word of the first commandment: "Anochi" - "I am"
4. The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, but with just the Aleph, the first letter of the first word of the first commandment, depicted. (Sadly, this is not the artistic piece from the Tel Aviv synagogue. We were there on Shabbat, so I did not take pictures, and I couldn't find an image of it online. Sorry.)

Friday, January 22, 2016

B'Shallach: Embracing the Struggle

I need to give you fair warning: This blog post is going to be a bit bleaker than usual. Maybe it's because of the blizzard we're 
anticipating, I don't know. I recently read a couple of articles and listened to an interview that made me look at our Torah portion a little bit differently. In fact, it may have given me a new outlook on the entire Exodus narrative, as well as a slightly different perspective on society today. Yet also one that I might not be ready to accept. You've been warned; now let's struggle together.

This past Monday, we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. I wrote about it last week here on the blog. In addition, I also gave the keynote address at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center's MLK Day observance, and I posted my sermon here as well, in case you're interested. 
And in that speech, I juxtaposed two quotes; one from Dr. King himself, and one from the thought-provoking writer, Ta-nehisi Coates. Fifty years ago, Dr. King said, "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." And in his book Between the World and Me, Coates writes that the arc of history bends towards chaos. In my speech, I "sided" with Dr. King, emphasizing how we need to remain hopeful and optimistic in the face of injustice and oppression. Not because we're naive or willfully blind, but because it gives us energy and passion to keep struggling and keep fighting against the darkness and despair that sometimes seems to pervade our world. But then I read our Torah portion, Beshallach.

This weekend is called Shabbat Shirah, the "Shabbat of Song." The Israelites cross the Sea of Reeds and literally begin to sing God's praises. A minute earlier, it seemed the Egyptians would overtake and kill them all (or at the very least drag them back into slavery), but now they rejoice as free women and men. 
Truly a moment of pure joy, hope, and excitement! ... And in the very next chapter, the Israelites rebel against God: "If only we had died by the hand of Adonai in the land of Egypt, when we sat around pots of meat and ate our fill of bread! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death!!" (Ex. 16:3) How do we make sense of this? How can they reject God, after everything they saw and experienced... TWO SECONDS AGO??? In Hebrew School, we sometimes teach the story of the Exodus as a happy one, with a united people fighting together for freedom and autonomy; loyal to God, pious, holy, and moral. But that is not our story. That is not the reality the Torah depicts, and we shouldn't sugar-coat our history because the truth makes us uncomfortable.

A good friend and colleague of mine, Rabbi Eytan Kenter, recently wrote on, comparing Ta-nehisi Coates' latest book to the Biblical work of Ecclesiastes. Kenter stated: "These two important books are here not to teach us how to make the world better, but to remind us that it is also our imperative to understand and come to terms with the world as it is." This gave me pause. I WANT to 
emphasize the hope and encouragement of Dr. Martin Luther King... but I also acknowledge that our story is filled with unresolved challenge, and flawed characters who don't necessarily get better. Sometimes we truly are meant to just sit with the tension of difficult situations. In a recent interview I heard with Ta-nehisi Coates, he exclaimed: "It's not my job to make people feel good about the world!" I wonder if the author of the Torah could have spoken those same words? It's not meant to be a "happily ever after" fairytale, is it? It's actually a book about real life. The Exodus is about REAL people trying to overcome national trauma and PTSD, and the picture isn't a rosy one. While I still stand by my speech on Monday, and still firmly believe in maintaining our hope and optimism, I also acknowledge the truth of the Exodus, Ecclesiastes, and Ta-nehisi Coates. 

I think sitting with this tension helps us be more sensitive people, better able to relate and empathize with others. Sometimes our best learning experiences come through struggle, and I am grateful for this new perspective on our text... but I still prefer a positive outlook, what can I say? 

Photos in this blog post:
1. Image of my daughter, Caroline (with Rebecca in the background), playing in the snow in January, 2015.
2. CC image courtesy of Outriggr on Wikimedia Commons
3. CC image "KriatYamSoof" by Lidia Kozenitzky, available from
4. CC image courtesy of Blackbobby on Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Speech on Martin Luther King Day 2016

I wanted to share with you a speech that I delivered this past Monday, when I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center MLK Day event. I spoke after we laid a wreath at the entrance of a building that once housed the Crozer Seminary, where Dr. King himself studied in the 1950s. And Rev. Bayard Taylor, who invited me, is currently the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Chester, where Dr. King preached as a young seminarian! So it was truly an honor to speak to a community that feels great pride in their personal connection to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please feel free to write back and let me know what you think of the sermon. Thanks!

Speech at Crozer-Chester’s Martin Luther King Day Event
Monday, January 18, 2016

Dear Friends,

I am truly honored to have been asked to come and speak at this Martin Luther King Day of Service event. I will admit, it IS a little daunting to be speaking here, after the wreath laying and the video presentation; both reminders of the role that Dr. King played in this community. I know that it is with great pride that Chester residents speak of their connection to Dr. King, and I feel blessed to be here honoring his memory and his legacy today.

As you know, I am a rabbi, the religious leader of my Jewish community of Ohev Shalom, currently located in Wallingford, just up the road from here. I say "currently" because the congregation wasn't founded in Wallingford, it has its origins in Chester. Records have been found that show Jews living permanently in Chester as far back as 1859, and Ohev Shalom was first located at 3rd and Lloyd, then built a building at 8th and Welsh in 1920, and only moved out of Chester in 1965. Though the congregation relocated decades ago, we are still "OF Chester," and we are proud of our heritage. 

As you also heard a couple of minutes ago, I was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, JTS, in New York City. When religious leaders first came to Chester to serve its Jewish population, they came from JTS. Like Ohev Shalom, JTS also has a long and rich history, dating back well into the 1800s. One of the great leaders of JTS, in the mid-1950s, was a rabbi by the name of Abraham Joshua Heschel, who originally came from Germany, then lived in Poland, and eventually escaped the Nazi Regime of the Second World War, and came to New York to become one of the primary theologians and teachers at JTS. In those days, he was quite well-known around the country, even outside the Jewish community.

And one of the proudest things that all JTS students know about Rabbi Heschel, that students still speak of to this day, was his close personal friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The two men met in 1963, and according to Susannah Heschel, Rabbi Heschel’s daughter: “What brought them together was a piety that transcended differences, forged by their love of the Bible, especially the prophets.” 

And I will also share with you that anyone who studied at JTS is familiar with a famous picture, from the start of the Voting Rights March in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In the middle, of course, is Dr. King, to his left is Ralph Bunche, undersecretary of the United Nations, and to HIS left is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I wish that there were more pictures of rabbis from the Jewish community and leaders from the African-American community marching arm-in-arm, but unfortunately we don’t see enough of those these days.

But Rabbi Heschel DID march with Dr. King, and it left a tremendous impression on him. There is a very well-known quote from Rabbi Heschel about the march – one that Jews aspire to emulate every time they engage in activism, civil rights, violence prevention, anti-poverty advocacy, or any other act of healing our world. Rabbi Heschel said: “When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.”

We sometimes erroneously believe that only our mouths can pray, or perhaps just our minds, hearts, or even souls. But Rabbi Heschel powerfully reminded us that activism, the work of our hands and feet, can also be praying, devoted service to the Almighty God of the Universe.

Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King agreed on many things. Susannah Heschel has written about how both men rejected the theology of Aristotle, who described God as the “unmoved Mover.” According to Aristotle, God pushed a button, or perhaps tipped the first domino, and then the world set off on its course, without any further influence – or concern – from God. “NO!” said Dr. King AND Rabbi Heschel. On the contrary, God is “the most moved Mover.” “God cares deeply about human beings and is pained by human acts of injustice and cruelty.” They each felt that deeply in their bones, and their lives are true testaments to living by the principles in which you believe.

I have to say, I really love how each man, each of these incredible leaders, emphasized the Biblical prophets. It is something I speak a lot about in my congregation, at Ohev Shalom. We sometimes, in the popular imagination, depict prophets as predictors of the future. We read the Biblical books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and we see visions of what will be, almost as if they were soothsayers or oracles, writing about things to come in the near future or sometime millennia off in the distance.

But I tell you now, we’ve got it all wrong. The role of the prophet was NEVER really to emphasize the future. They would foretell gloom or hope, depending on the audience, to try and spur the people to change RIGHT NOW. The point isn’t the vision; it’s what the vision is cautioning you about your actions TODAY, in this very moment.

And believe you me, it was TOUGH being a prophet. They would tell it like it is. They held up a mirror to society and demanded that people see themselves for who they were and how they were behaving. And when people in Ancient Israel would tell the prophet to stop, to keep those stupid predictions to themselves, the voice would only get louder. Sometimes prophets wished they could stop; wished they didn't have this impossible job. Jeremiah tells us, in chapter 20: “Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones.” Prophets had, and have, no choice. Once he or she sees the true nature of things, and sees the pain and suffering in the world, it has GOT to come out.

A prophet stands in the breach, caught between God and humanity. Sometimes the prophet speaks to us on God’s behalf, and sometimes to God on our behalf. It is a TOUGH job. You know, we’ve got a lot of clergy members in the room today, as well as nurses, doctors, orderlies, administrators; we all think WE have it rough; prophecy has us all beat!!

In March of 1968, just a few, short weeks before he was killed, Dr. King spoke to a gathering of rabbis, honoring Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel himself introduced his friend, Dr. King, and in those opening remarks he said the following: “Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America.”

I think each of them saw the other as taking up the call of the prophets of Israel. They saw in one another a kindred soul, someone else who saw the way things were, and who could not refrain from speaking out against violence, oppression, hate, or injustice. They each felt that fire in their bones; perhaps it was comforting to see someone else who carried that same burden.

Dr. King was supposed to attend a Passover Seder in Rabbi Heschel’s home a few, short weeks after that ceremony. Instead, Rabbi Heschel found himself with the tragic and heart-breaking task of reading a psalm at Dr. King’s funeral.

As you are likely aware, Passover celebrates the story of the Exodus from Egypt. In fact, in the Jewish community right now, we are reading that story in our annual cycle of Biblical readings. Starting in the fall, Jews around the world read one small section of our Torah, the Five Books of Moses that are the first five books of our shared Bible, each week, so that we end up back in the fall at the end of Deuteronomy, ready to restart our cycle again at the beginning of Genesis.

This past Sabbath, we read the story of the final three plagues, rained down on the Egyptians by God, and then the glorious story of the Israelites finally escaping slavery.

In my sermon to the congregation, I highlighted one, single verse, often overlooked in this world-famous story. In Exodus, chapter 12, verse 37, we are told that “the Israelites journeyed from Rameses.” THAT, seemingly minor statement, is actually the precise moment where they finally leave. And that is NOT the verse I wanted to highlight. The NEXT verse informs us, “Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them.” In Hebrew, the text uses the term “Erev Rav.” “A mixed multitude.”

I don’t know if you were already familiar with this statement. Perhaps you were. But if you weren't, it might have surprised you to hear that the Israelites, in fact, did not leave alone. MANY other people left with them. Other slaves, other disenfranchised people – probably captured in one Egyptian conquest or another – seized the opportunity and escaped bondage WITH the Israelites.

In my remarks to the congregation, I said: “Others threw their lot in with ours, and we took responsibility for their ultimate destiny. Our fates were intertwined, and this motley crew of former-slaves had to learn to coexist, and even rely on one another for their very survival.”

We cannot do this alone. None of us can. The story of the Exodus teaches us that we can only escape slavery and oppression together. As Dr. King so prophetically reminds us: “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” OUR lives, all of us in this room, in the city of Chester and the surrounding communities of Delaware County and beyond, our survival and success is dependent on one another. It is inescapable.

We are the Erev Rav, the mixed multitude. There are A LOT of things that enslave and oppress us, but like the ancient Israelites and their fellow freed slaves in Egypt, we need to band together to defeat these plagues. And if we cannot defeat them right away, we must at the very least face them together.

And YET, we actually have to strike a difficult balance. It is true, We need to be like the prophets, with our eyes wide open and our hearts ready to tackle the truth of our situation. But what I also think is SO powerful about the teachings of Dr. King is his refusal to despair. So often today, I read articles and talk to people who say the situation is hopeless. Racism is too ingrained in us. Hate is too powerful, corruption too widespread, and the people too disheartened. But Dr. King never said it was hopeless. Could we really ever claim that our situation and our plagues are WORSE than what Dr. King faced in his day? He saw it all, but maintained his hope. We need that same attitude - to see the honesty of our situation, but never allow ourselves to lose hope.

I was listening to a fascinating interview recently with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama. She was asked about a famous quote by Dr. King, and a recent rebuttal, written by the incredible writer, Ta-nehisi Coates. Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” And in his book, Between the World and Me, Coates retorted, “the arc of history bends towards chaos.”

And when she was asked about this, Valerie Jarrett said Coates wasn’t necessarily wrong, but that she refused to see the world that way. She refused to accept that the lesson of history is everything turns towards chaos. Like Dr. King, Jarrett said she insisted on staying positive. Not because she was ignoring the problems in our world, but because she maintained faith that we are moving in the right direction, and things ARE getting better.

Once again, it is the balancing act that we must do. Honest, yet hopeful. President Obama, in fact, expresses this same sentiment in his book, "The Audacity of Hope," where he writes: "To think clearly about race, then, requires us to see the world on a split screen... to maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is, to acknowledge the sins of the past and the challenges of the present without becoming trapped in cynicism or despair.

And so, today, on Martin Luther King Day, I must turn to all of you, and ask if this is something you can do. Can you maintain this split-screen with me? Can we talk about systemic racism and gun violence and the problems that plague our society, but all while refusing to become bitter, jaded, or so cynical that nothing changes? Can we come to the table and speak honestly, holding up mirrors to one another, and challenging each other to be our best selves, to form new relationships and bonds across our various divides, to heal our country and our world together?

I am not saying this to you because it's easy. It isn't easy for me as a white, Jewish, male, straight, (let's face it) privileged person to speak about oppression and invoke the name of Martin Luther King as if I've lived ANY of the hardship he endured. Or to represent a congregation, Ohev Shalom, that is "of Chester," but moved away half a century ago, and hasn't always maintained relationships in the community the way it could have, or should have, done all along. This isn't easy.

But I share all of this with you today, because of my ancient ancestors, the Israelites, who marched out of Egypt arm-in-arm with a mixed multitude of freed slaves. I stand here proudly, because of my rabbinic role model, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King. My history reminds me that we cannot do this alone. We all need one another. We all share an "inescapable network of mutuality." Every year, on this day, we should recommit to the work of battling oppression and speaking out against injustice, AND defiantly refuse to lose hope that someday we will win. 

I urge ALL of us to do just that. To keep a clear eye and vigilant focus on the chaos that swirls around us. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be crushed by it. It may push us, it may bend us and we SHOULD bend. But when we do, let us bend toward justice.

Thank you. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bo: Strength in (Mixed) Numbers

When I was in rabbinical school, we had an online listserv dedicated just for students, and it was called "Erev Rav." The name is a clever little rabbinical pun. Just as "Erev Pesach" or "Erev Shabbat" refer to the evening when Passover or Shabbat begin, so too we were each an "Erev Rav," an "almost rabbi" on the brink (or eve) of ordination. 
At the same time, the term "Erev Rav" is used in this week's Torah portion to refer to the "mixed multitudes" (Exodus 12:38) of people who apparently left Egypt with the Israelite slaves. All of us future-rabbis were similarly a mixed multitude - a motley crew - from across the globe, who had come together in pursuit of a united goal. I think this is a very powerful, and often overlooked, concept in our parashah; and an important one for us to examine and take to heart, especially this week.

The ten plagues are over, Pharaoh has finally relented, and we are so excited for our ancestors to FINALLY be leaving, we often forget to ask: "who are the 'they' who are actually departing Egypt?" 
The Torah seems to suggest that a whole host of OTHER people, non-Israelites, took advantage of the confusion and chaos of the situation, and left Egypt to seek a better life in the desert. This really shouldn't come as a surprise to us; I mean, is there any chance the Israelites were the ONLY slaves in Egypt? Of course there were others, way down at the lowest rung of the totem pole, and of course they were eager to extricate themselves when the opportunity presented itself. It makes perfect sense... and it also changes the dynamic - and the narrative - of what the Exodus meant. We were not alone.

Others threw their lot in with ours, and we took responsibility for their ultimate destiny. Our fates were intertwined, and this motley crew of former-slaves had to learn to coexist, and even rely on one another for their very survival. How perfect a message on the "eve" of Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King understood how important this was, when 
he said: "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." Even his famous "I have a dream" speech begins by talking about the children of slaves AND slave owners sitting together at the "table of brotherhood." Dr. King certainly understood how interconnected we all were, and are, and how we MUST work together for survival and success. His legacy is undoubtedly one of peace, freedom, and hope, but it is also the very image of our Torah portion; this mixed multitude of former slaves, setting off into an unknown future, but banding together to fight and strive for a shared destiny of opportunity, independence, and faith. 

As we prepare for this year's Martin Luther King Day, let us all remember this legacy. In the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric, us-versus-them hate speech, and the fear that things will never get better, we need to firmly hold on to 
the image of the Erev Rav. Our story began as part of a mixed multitude, and not only did our people survive, we thrived! And we are still here. Not because we separated off and cared only for ourselves, and not because we shunned influence or interaction with others around us. The motley crew is a key to our achievements. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of this by the great minds and leaders of another cultural group. Thank you, Dr. King! 

Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image courtesy of SaulJordison onWikimedia Commons
2. CC image courtesy of Cmglee on Wikimedia Commons
4. CC image courtesy of Jim Padgett on Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 8, 2016

Va-Eira: Caught Outside in a Hailstorm

As you can probably imagine, one of the main questions I get, as a rabbi, is about God. It's often a variation on the themes of where God is, what God is like, why do bad things happen to good people, or why doesn't God speak to us anymore? 
Just between you and me, I don't have a lot of answers to these questions. I think about them a lot myself, to be sure, but I certainly don't know THE solutions to some of humanity's greatest dilemmas. But do we really have NO sense of what God wants of us? Is it fair to say that we are totally on our own, and that God isn't speaking to us in ANY way? In reality, I think we overload our senses with work, social media, terrifying news headlines, and pretty much ANYTHING we can find, just so we don't have to listen for the still, small voice inside all of us that actually DOES know more than we'd like to admit.

I'll tell you why this came to mind this week. Our Torah portion is Va-eira, and it's the second parashah in the Book of Exodus. Moses has confronted Pharaoh about letting the Israelite slaves go free, Pharaoh has stubbornly refused, and the plagues have begun. In fact, seven of the ten plagues rain down on Egypt in our Torah reading. The seventh 
one is fiery hail that destroys land and kills cattle and people. The Torah introduces this calamity by having Moses tell Pharaoh: "order your livestock and everything you have in the open brought under shelter; every man and beast that is found outside, not having been brought indoors, shall perish when the hail comes down upon them!" (Ex. 9:19) So what do you think happened? Sure enough - "Throughout the land of Egypt, the hail struck down all that were in the open, both man and beast" (9:25). I find myself asking, who were these fools who stayed out in the open, leaving themselves vulnerable to lethal weather storms??

Remember again, this is the SEVENTH plague!! Clearly God has already demonstrated, unequivocally, the ability and intention to afflict Egypt with plagues. How is it even possible that by plague #7, there are still skeptics and doubters??? It's almost comical! And yet, of course there are. In every generation, 
and in every situation, there are always going to be people who simply REFUSE to accept facts, or who insist that they are right, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Today we deal with climate change deniers, gun rights activists, and people who are convinced that we've "solved" racism in America. Like the Egyptians who insisted on taking a stroll outside when the hail began to fall, many people today are too invested in the status quo. Even when the system is wholly broken and change MUST come, the prospect of giving up on long-held beliefs is simply too scary. 

We prefer to look to heaven, and ask why God hasn't "fixed" hunger, poverty, racism, and intolerance. It's easier, really. The harder truth to face is that we have all the food we need on this planet, we just don't care to allocate it better. We CAN work on all the problems that 
plague our society today, but it takes effort, sacrifice, discomfort, and probably a fair amount of pain and loss. But let's not be ancient Egyptians about this. Slavery was deeply entrenched in their society, and it was probably unfathomable to let ALL the slaves go free. But that doesn't make it ok to keep them. When we read the famous story of the Exodus, we all like to think of ourselves as the Israelites. Let's first be sure that we're not actually the oppressors, and let's be a little more vigilant to the stubborn tendencies that are tough to discard. Being an Israelite isn't a God-given right; it's a choice, and one that we must constantly be making again and again if we are to be truly free.

Photos in this blog post:
1. CC image courtesy of FishInWater onWikimedia Commons
2. CC image of hailstones from a Brisbane, Australia hailstorm courtesy of Craig Franklin on Wikimedia Commons
3. CC image courtesy of Matt Brown on Wikimedia Commons
4. CC image, "Slave beating in Egypt," courtesy of Artuller on Wikimedia Commons