1. Exodus: sh’mot

Names.  That’s what this portion is called.  “These are the names of the sons of Israel…”  And there’s a burning bush that is not consumed.  And bare feet standing on holy ground.  And a reticent leader.  What an interesting portion.  This feels like the actual beginning.  Genesis now feels like it was the prelude…the set-up.

The twelve sons of Israel are listed.  Again.  They have been listed several times already, but that was in the prelude.  Now they’re listed as a kind of starting point I think.  They’re listed but they don’t do anything other than die.  They are listed as our beginning.  The rest of us.  It’s a reminder that we all come from them.  Their offspring multiplied and became a nation.  Not just a guy in the desert who forsakes everyone else’s idols in favor of one god.  But a whole nation, large enough to be feared by those in power.  Big enough too feel the first wave of oppression.  Big enough to matter.

I keep reading that Judaism is dying.  There seems to be this big infernal fear that we have to hold on tighter, or Judaism will disappear.  I don’t want to hold on tighter.  As a parent, I find that when I hold on tighter my grip is lost and whatever I was holding onto slips out of my grasp.  Won’t the same thing happen if we hold on too tightly to our need to maintain our Jewish community?  Holding on too tight, despairing that we’ll disappear if we don’t work harder, try harder,  believe deeper says that what we’re believing isn’t good enough to stand on its own.  And my Judaism is strong.  I know there is lots of inter-marriage.  I’m not married to a Jew.  But my children are Jewish.  By choice.  By their own understanding.  Because they want to be.

Won’t Judaism survive on its own merits?  The more I know about Judaism the more I love being Jewish.  I can’t imagine that others don’t feel the same way.  Maybe not all others, but many others.  We are the only religion that teaches the holiness of this life.  Isn’t that enough to keep us in the fold?  I love living a life that is lived just for itself.  Em and I were talking today about fun and happiness.  I think that fun and happiness are not valid goals in life.  Fun and happiness are by-products of living a good, righteous, ethical, right life.  Of course there’s plenty of pain and suffering as well, but that comes whether you live a right life or not.  I realized after our conversation that this is a really Jewish thought.  If you live right, happiness follows.  Don’t you think?

So the more people that live a right life are living a Jewish life.  Judaism can’t die.  It’s too good to die.  Too perfect.  It doesn’t need our paranoia to survive.  It just will.  Twelve boys born a long time ago saw to our survival.  They made lots and lots of babies.

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