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Torah from Campus

The Torah portion that Jews all over the world read this week is called "Bo."  It opens with the last few of the Ten Plagues in Egypt and continues  until the Israelites are on their way out of Egypt.  Perhaps the highlight of the Torah portion is the first Passover celebration in history.  This feast occurs in Egypt as the plague of darkness makes way to the plague of the slaying of the first born.  Our ancestors mark their houses with blood from lambs they have sacrificed, and they feast with matzah, unleavened bread.

But wait a minute?  What are they celebrating?  They are, after all, still in Egypt!  And isn't Passover supposed to celebrate leaving Egypt?  Perhaps they are celebrating not their physical liberation but their spiritual liberation, the faith that they could divorce themselves from lives of slavery and live as free people, as if physical freedom is worthless unless accompanied by a shift in our mentality as well.

Or maybe, every time we celebrate Passover (not for a couple more months) and every time we think about the Exodus (tradition enjoins us to do this daily--maybe twice a day), we are not just looking backward, but we are anticipating a time when there will be more freedom in our world, just as our ancestors anticipated their own freedom by feasting even though they were still in Egypt.  This idea would suggest that when we come to school, when we go about our lives, we consider what we are doing along our own journeys to make a difference in the journeys of others--near and far, so we can not only anticipate but actively bring about a world in which all are free.

Feel free to email rabbijason@umbc.edu if you'd like to continue the conversation or share your own thoughts about the Torah portion.

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