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Rabbi’s Blog: Mitzrayim - Preserving the Past & Forging the Future

01/11/2022 12:26:30 PM


Dear OZ family,

When we left Egypt in Parshas Bo, we were still runaway slaves until we crossed the Yam Suf in Parshas Beshallach.  Our daily prayers recall that we saw Egypt itself die on the shores that brought us to safety. That was when our full belief in God and Moshe was manifest in the singing of “Az Yashir” that closes our daily praises of our Creator and Redeemer.

God granted us our freedom, our safety, and our sustenance, and in the aftermath of our redemption, assured that we would not be consumed by revenge and living in the past. We did not fly into enraged fits of revenge the night before leaving Egypt. Vengeance was God’s as we remained in our homes, protected by the events of the first Passover. No one took parting shots at their Egyptian tormentors as they left the land where they shed a billion tears. The Egyptians were busy burying their first born and we were busy pursuing a future.

The road to our future was bumpy, and it took on a profoundly circuitous route. It was fraught with setbacks, failures, moral backsliding, and disappointments. But in the meantime we bound ourselves to God’s covenant and law, we busied ourselves with building a place where God’s presence could reside in our midst, and we organized ourselves into an orderly camp ready to enter the Promised Land.

Included in that law was the Mitzva not to return to Egypt, nor to despise Egyptians for what they did to us. This assured that we would concentrate more on holiness than on hatred, more on the presence of God than on the presence of revenge, and more on the future than on the past.

We are not short on remembering the past. We have a daily Mitzva to remember the redemption from Egypt, not the slavery of Egypt. We have an annual Mitzva to remember the cruel barbarism of Amalek. We are not oblivious to remembering the past, but it is always tinged with our sights on the future. We remember Amalek as a reminder that God’s greatest enmity is relegated to those who attack the weakest ones, as Amalek did in this week’s Parsha. A truly great society is judged by how it supports the weakest among us. And we have a weekly Mitzva to remember our capacity to invest holiness into everything we do. Shabbos is that reminder and it makes perfect sense that what defines forbidden activity on Shabbos is precisely the activity in setting up God’s Mishkan.

We quickly went from the lowest depths in Egypt to the highest heights of holiness. All this plays itself out in the rest of Sefer Shemos.

Please join me in wishing Mazel Tov to George and Illana Lloyd on the bris of their grandson, Ariel Yehuda, born to their children Reuben and Sarah. Also, Mazel Tov to Rabbi Yechiel and Aliza Shaffer on the birth of a baby boy. Mazel Tov to Blayne and Scott Mathias on the birth of a baby girl, and Mazel Tov to Debbie Robinson on the birth of a grandson, born to their children, Yehudit and Sam Daitch. And Mazel Tov to Neil and Daphne Herskowitz on the engagement of their son, David, to Yakira Gertzberg. May we all be imbued with Simcha and holiness.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be excellent.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street

New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200



Thu, June 8 2023 19 Sivan 5783