The image to the left is artistic rendering of the Arabic translation of the First Commandment.
Ed. Note: This is the first post in a series of ten which will be presented as a “count-up” to Shavuot. The text comes from TBS congregant Rob Spiegel who presented these words at a special congregational meeting celebrating the passage of our new By-Laws. Please join the conversation by adding your personal reflection of the 1st Commandment as a comment to this post. What does the 1st commandment mean today? Given the recent changes in Egypt, what does it mean to remember that we were “brought out of the land”? Where do you feel most at home?
I, Adonai your God, (am the one) who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from a slave house.
In performing this text study, we are looking forward to Shavout and the adoption of new bylaws for TBS. But, for a moment, allow me to look back to Pesach and ask how is this Commandment different from the other commandments. Are we being told by God to do something or refrain from doing something? Or, are we being told to believe? Is it possible for God to command belief?
Commentators differ, and we could discuss this point for hours, not the couple of minutes I have now. But, as we are reminded at Pesach, we were each individually and together as a community brought by God out of Egypt, out of a slave house. Consider the drama of the situation of the people actually there at the time. Having been slaves and having seen the plagues, hastily prepared to leave Egypt, crossing the sea into the desert, and watching Moses bring the tablets from Sinai, this commandment served to inform them, and continues to remind each of us and our community as a whole, who is responsible for freedom and who therefore has the authority to give the law.
When I was in college, I spent a semester abroad in Israel. Like so many, being in Israel was a deeply meaningful experience and I felt more connected to the Jewish people. During that semester I did a week-long side trip to Egypt. My feeling of connection to our people was even greater when I returned to Israel. When I returned, I felt at home, maybe more a part of our people than ever before or since in my life.
We here continue to be part of this community, and here at TBS we are a community within a larger Jewish Community. In accepting the nomination to serve on the Board of Trustees, I hope to continue to work to build community within the TBS community/communities.
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