Shabbat Inspiration, Worship Schedule, and LifeCycle Notices
Friday, January 14, 2022 / 12 Shevat 5782
Beth Emet Building Closed on Monday, January 17 for
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Should you need to reach someone, please call the Beth Emet afterhours line (847-869-4230 x 4).
A central message of the Jewish faith is that the cycle of slavery can be broken; we are not bound by the past. But breaking free of the past is difficult even if there’s the potential for something better in the future. In our Torah portion this week, we see the Israelites thrust out of Egyptian bondage, scared and unsure of what lies ahead. They’ve witnessed the horrors of the ten plagues and the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. They are out of Pharoah’s grasp, but now what? At first they are jubilant, singing and dancing, and then the reality of their present circumstances sets in and they complain that there is no fresh water to drink or food to eat.

Rachel Naomi Remen in the book, My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging, shares the story of her grandfather telling her about the Exodus from Egypt. She is shocked to learn that the Israelites are not happier after they’ve been freed from slavery. Her grandfather responds to her incredulity: “…the choice people have to make is never been slavery and freedom. We will always have to choose between slavery and the unknown.” I’ve always been struck by the truth of this framing of the story; once we leave the past behind, we still have a ways to go to reach the promised land.

I’m thinking about Rachel Naomi Remen’s grandfather’s wisdom on this Shabbat approaching Martin Luther King Day and today when the Afghan refugee family that Beth Emet has adopted is arriving in Chicago. The Black slaves in our country were freed from chattel slavery more than 150 years ago, but is the Black community today truly free? The Afghan family which is arriving today is leaving behind challenging circumstances in Afghanistan, but what will their life be like once they get here? We might think that once a difficult past is over, that the future is bright, but it’s not so simple.
The unknown is a difficult place to be. It can be a place of despair and consternation. Those who are in this place need care and support; they shouldn’t have to traverse this landscape alone. When the Israelites cry out for fresh water in our Torah portion, God responds and tells Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water to make it potable. And when the people are hungry, God rains down manna from heaven.    

In our world, we don’t expect God to act alone, but through our actions. We celebrate Martin Luther King Day to remind us that Black Americans still experience oppression in our country. True freedom for Black Americans still lies ahead of us, and we have a responsibility to continue to move our country through the wilderness of racism to the promised land of real equity. And for the newly arriving Afghan family, they will settle into an apartment that has been beautifully and lovingly furnished and stocked by our generous and caring community, but their immediate future is likely to be rocky. This is why we will continue to be in relationship with this family, supporting them as they make the transition from their life in Afghanistan to their new life in Skokie.

I’m immensely proud of this community that rolls up its sleeves and does what it can in such a thoughtful and loving way to traverse this wilderness between slavery and the promised land. I’m heartened by your efforts to build true equity in our society and to sweeten the lives of a family by helping them to settle in and build a new life for themselves. The unknown is a difficult place to be, but so much easier to navigate when we join hands and hearts and march together.
May we all find sweetness, joy, and freedom on this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi London 
Monday, January 17

11:00 am
Walk for Warmth!
Join Beth Emet’s team in support of Interfaith Action of Evanston’s third annual Walk for Warmth and help raise funds to support the Emergency Overnight Shelter and the Warming Centers. Join us in the fight against homelessness and hunger in our community.

This is a family-friendly event and people of all ages are welcome to show their compassion by walking all or part of the route. To join Beth Emet’s team, or to donate in support of our team, click here. In keeping with Beth Emet's COVID protocols, we will be wearing masks outside.

Contact Leslie Shulruff with any questions