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Dvar Shemot

This Dvar is dedicated L'ilui Nishmat R' Yaakov Menachem Munish ben Natan Ressler

Dear Reader

Welcome to the concise, relevant Lelamed Weekly Dvar. Although this Dvar doesn't follow the typical format of question/answer/relevance, it is something that I've dedicated my professional career to developing - starting and running Jewish Culture Clubs in public/private non-jewish high schools. This message is important today more than ever before. Enjoy...

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Despite being set in the midst of a corrupt Egyptian society, the Jewish community was flourishing with schools, synagogues and social networks, and assimilation was virtually non-existent, and it was because they made a pact amongst themselves not to change their names, style of dress, or language. With these safeguards, they were able to keep a healthy distance. As Rabbi Shraga Simmons explains, at the beginning of this week's Parsha, Shemot, the tide turned: Immediately after the old generation died, the Jewish People spread throughout Egypt and the assimilation began. They dropped their Jewish customs and blended into secular society. Immediately, verse 8 reports the rise of anti-Semitism in Egypt. What makes this so unusual is that hatred of one group for another is typically due to what sociologists call "dislike of the unlike." The Egyptians didn't mind as long as the Jews kept to themselves. It was once they began to resemble "regular Egyptians" that the anti-Semitism began. The dual loyalty issue had reared its ugly head. Anti-Semitism is often generated with the perception that Jews have power and influence.

It's happening again today and, as we can see from this week's Parsha, the consequences are devastating. Jews are apathetic and disinterested. But if you're reading this, you are amongst those who care. We can break the cycle and turn our ship around by making the commitment to Jewish education and Jewish observance. The Torah offers literally thousands of opportunities to express our Jewish identity on a regular basis. Light Shabbos candles, or say the Shema. Listen in your Jewish studies classes, or start a lunchtime study group. Judaism is not all-or-nothing. The options are endless. The experience is transforming. The reward is eternal.

 
Quotation of the week (thanks to Steve):
"The pen of life which we employ to write our life's story may appear dry, yet, somewhere, somehow, if we only seek it out, we can find one drop of writing fluid which can start us on our way again." -Rabbi Solomon Roodman

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Last Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2004