This week's assignment by our Reconstructionist Rabbi..was a little overwhelming. For me the word Midrash brings up pictures of men like Maimonides who could do everything from Midrash to medicine. Somehow, I just don't picture Kathy the convert as being in the same category. However, since I sweated bullets over this I thought it is worth publishing.
Midrash of Exodus 23:9 by Kathy with editing by her friend Jillian
“You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.
This can be interpreted simply as "we must not reproach another with our own faults.”
While there are some who accept a simpler interpretation of this passage, others place greater importance in this dictate of G-d. In her book, “The Committed Life”, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the Hineni Organization, states the following:
“We were abused and brutalized in Egypt, and we could have taken that experience as license to brutalize others. However; G-d demanded that we take such pain, turn it around and use it to reach out to others with compassion."
This passage speaks as a piece of strength from the Torah. It teaches us that
we must take the bad encounters in our lives and turn away from their negativity.
Few of us can say that we have not been tarred with the brush of negative forces in our lives. The loss of a precious loved one, the devastation of an unexpected divorce, or finding ourselves a victim of some kind of abuse. All of the aforementioned, in addition to the trials encountered in our everyday lives count as negative forces. It is incumbent upon all of us to muster our conviction and internal strength in order to overcome such challenges.
A rudimentary study of Jewish history offers an example of a people who have survived generations of torture, slavery and in-human persecution. Yet the survivors of such horrors since the beginning of Judaism, have always found a way up and out of the morass. We can, as scholars, use the shining example of such lives as our strongest role models. By their actions, our forefathers educated the next generation, driving them to pursue an unwavering love of their faith, and by their successes in a world, where less than 1% of the population is Jewish, have directed us onto a path to follow: one that equates with the dictates and teachings of a righteous life.
When we allow ourselves to turn our lives around, we will begin to treat others with the loving kindness that all of us desire and deserve. Without this determination, we are left with a negative focus on the past rather than a positive focus on the future. We must take this lesson and internalize it.
When we embrace the light of goodness, we will be drawn into the shelter and the blessings of the covenant.
Midrash is meant to be challenged or challenging....
Good Night for now,
24th of Tevet, 5770 / כ״ד בטבת תש״ע